Thursday, February 3, 2011
2010 was an unbelievably busy year for me, especially professionally. Yet I find myself in the early days of 2011 feeling like I've worked my ass off for ten years only to achieve the mediocre goal of not getting fired or laid off. I've been rewarded by being given a big chunk of the interior planning on Gestalt HMO's Uber MOB, and I now find myself sitting in contentious meetings with clients who have been looking at the same floor plan for almost three months, and now all of a sudden they don't like where they are in the building and they need to move to a different floor now! and I find myself thinking is this really what I set out to do? My brain tickled with this a few weeks ago when it was announced that three associates in our office were being promoted to senior associate. I don't begrudge them the advancement--they're good, hardworking folks, but what of the rest of us? As my good pal Norman (who is an associate) mused, "The partners say they're worried about office morale, so they promote three people who are technically already promoted?" It then made me wonder what do I really want out of work, out of my architectural career. Do I want to be an associate? Do I even want to keep doing this? I never imagined, fair WAD readers, that I would be an architect until I was 70, but do I even want to be one when I'm 50? 40 (which is in five years, by the way)?
I suppose that now might not be the best time to muse on these things, and not because I have a job and many people don't have one. I've seen architecture when it's good, and it's not good right now because the economy's hard. And when the economy is hard, it frays everyone's nerves, even the nerves of people that have jobs. And those frayed nerves come into my user group meetings and leak out onto Howie and me when people are furious that Gestalt National didn't program their department with a vitals alcove for weighing patients and getting their blood pressures and temperatures, or they're pissed because their department is in the back corner of the basement and they feel like they got the short end of a stick that technically they were holding when we and Gestalt National put them in the basement four months ago and they acted fine with it. So for me to judge how I feel about my profession when things are hard for that profession would be like judging your entire marriage on the one day when your spouse is in a super-foul funk caused by five different horrible things at once.
But still, it feels like the learning curve on what I do every day, every week, every month is leveling out to near-flat. I'm doing different iterations of the same thing, the same tasks. To paraphrase George W. Bush, is our architect really learning? It doesn't feel much like it. But then I consider the whole notion of happiness: while work shouldn't be miserable and shouldn't make you miserable, should it also be euphoria-inducing, or should it just tolerable with momentary patches of small victories and small defeats? Am I asking too much of my job, my career, my profession? I don't think I am. There have been many many times between June 2000 and September 2008 in which I really liked my job and found it interesting or at least tolerable, with comparatively fewer moments in which it sucked canal water. Knowing that I've felt that before makes me think I at least need to be patient with this dissatisfaction I'm feeling. I can acknowledge it and deal with it, but I'm not going to act on it--architecture is fine for now, and I'm sure it will improve as the economy improves. However, I'm not going to push this feeling aside either. It means that I'm finding a lack of something not just in my life but in my profession, and improving things is always motivating for me.
Failing that, I could reorganize my closet.