When I made the decision to follow my father into architecture, I did so knowing full well that this was going to be a long and arduous road. Dad had told me for years how difficult architecture school was, how painful design juries could be, and how competitive the environment of architecture ultimately becomes. There are the years of internships, the low pay, and the bottom of the barrel work tasks.
I felt that if I could endure the ride of becoming an architect, then the payoff would be an instant sense of arrival. With license in hand, I would finally be an architect and all would be right with the world.
Oh ignorance, you are such a sweet bliss…
Well, the process was indeed long, convoluted, and at times seemingly endless. In graduate school I spent numerous all-nighters in the studio just to endure critiques that almost brought me to tears. The majority of my internship was completed under the mentorship of my father but this didn’t make things simple by any means. If you have ever had to deal with the IDP process, then you understand how challenging it can be to simply navigate, let alone fulfill. Then began the most daunting aspect of the process: studying for and taking the Architect Registration Examination, or ARE. At the time, this was a series of nine tests, ranging from 4-6 hours in duration, and covering the last 8 years of my professional experience. After one full year and over 1,000 pages of notes, I successfully completed all nine sections. Nothing left to do but obtain a fancy little stamp, sit back, and let all the adulation and riches pour over me, right?
So now here I am, a licensed architect in numerous states, running my family firm, fully living the dream. I still, however, find myself pulling all nighters, stressing over the unknown, and doing more research than I ever thought possible. Things have not become simpler; in fact they are more complex. The instant sense of arrival never came. I have a sense of accomplishment with all that I’ve done, but in truth I now have more goals than I had before, even more challenges lay ahead.
In finishing one journey I find myself at the very beginning of another. This new adventure seems more immediate, more demanding, and it ultimately holds more consequence. The long process towards licensure that I have just completed was not a means to an end at all, but truly an end unto itself.
I look back at those difficult times along the road, even the most trying and frustrating, with great reverence and pride. I hardly remember the easy crits or the short project tasks, but instead I recall the challenging juries and the long all-nighters. Those are the experiences that stuck, the ones that mattered. I know now that it is these difficult times, these seemingly insurmountable times, that will fly by and leave lasting impressions. So keep focused, keep diligent, and don’t blink or you just might miss the best part!