An Architect Looks at Thirty

March 18, 2018

My thirtieth birthday was last weeka few weeks ago… last month, and I seem to have missed New Year’s, so here is a recap / resolutions and look back over the last decade all rolled into one.

This blog is now coming up on ten years of posts – my very first post was in December 2008. Since then, I’ve graduated from college, then from graduate school, become an urbanist, done some traveling, moved across country to California, gotten my architecture license, and worked my way up to managing my own projects. Now I’m a project architect with nearly five years of experience, and I’m trying to figure out what’s next.

Last year around this time, in the throes of the aftermath of the election, I was feeling lost and made some general resolutions to take better care of myself. I was hoping to exercise more, take up piano again, and plan some trips. I was successful in planning the trips, and went to AIA Convention in Orlando; visited friends in Washington, DC; visited family in Michigan, North Carolina, and Alabama; judged at Odyssey of the Mind World Finals; visited more friends in Chicago; and even went to Europe. I also bought a digital piano so I could practice more, read some good books, and exercised more or less consistently, if not as often as I should. But I still had a tough year emotionally and at work, with fairly constant work stress and stress at home. At the end of 2017, I still felt lost.

This year, I’m hoping to change course a bit. As the great poet Jimmy Buffett once said: “Relationships - we all have ‘em, we all want ‘em, but what do you do with ‘em?” I intend to work on mine, and finally stop apologizing for being a bad friend. One of those relationships worth strengthening is with myself, as I also hope to work on establishing some goals for the next five, ten, and further years. I have decided that 2018 will be the year for #relationshipgoals. (To be clear - the goal is have relationships, that is, to spend time talking with and being with people, not setting some particular goal “for” the relationship.) And you all get to hold me accountable!

Since my feeling is that goals are not useful unless they are concrete and measureable, here are some benchmarks:

  1. Complete some of the personal projects that have been cluttering up my house and my head for the last year or more. This includes old scrapbooks, new paintings, and various crafts. Maybe even make a new Halloween costume or two.
  2. Take the time to read architecture periodicals, books for fun, and some scholarly works.
  3. Find an exercise regime that I can stick to. Do whatever it is 2x / week.
  4. Write to my friends, at least once a month. Write real letters or e-mails, whichever seems right.
  5. Make plans to visit with friends who live nearby; re-start planning events for local folks to join in.

The idea is to be intentional about my relationships with family, friends, and co-workers, but also stop guilting myself about things I don’t accomplish on schedule.

I was talking with one of my friends about how I’ve come to this place in my life where I don’t know what’s next, and I don’t even know what I want from life. She told me that the way she’s been able to grapple with these questions is in face-to-face conversations with her friends and colleagues. At first I thought that was strange advice – don’t I usually do my best thinking alone, with pen and paper? But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think she is right. Planning my life and my goals together with other people makes sense; developing my relationships seems like one way to expand the universe of possibilities, to find out what others are doing, and ultimately to learn what I want to be doing myself. So here’s to my theme for 2018: #relationshipgoals, with friends and family, and to figuring it all out.