Mick Jagger’s famous lyrics, “You can’t always get what you want…..but you get what you need,” could definitely be my theme song. As I move through the journey of life, I realize that I can’t always control every outcome and it’s often the unintended consequences that lead me to what I really need. What I have discovered is that my joy in life is created through having life and work balance.
My journey of becoming an architect and love of houses started when I was probably five or six. The smell of fresh gypsum board and sawdust, as I meandered through the stud framed walls of a new house, were intoxicating. There was something about creating a home, a place where the family lived, that captivated my attention. Through my very impressionable maturing years, I began to believe that having a beautiful home was a precursor to being a joyful person and family. So, in my quest to create joy for myself, others and their families, I went to architecture school.
Somewhere along the way, (it was sophomore year for me), I picked up the culture of “all nighters” and preparing my drawings and chipboard models with the speed and precision that only coffee, “Nine Inch Nails,” and a looming deadline can produce. The endured self-abuse seemed all worth it once the project was complete and the critique was constructive. Creating is exciting! Turning ideas and sketches into something concrete and practical feels incredibly rewarding.
Fast forward through 10 years of architectural practice to 2008 when I would have described myself as passionate about my work, even a workaholic. The project that I was managing at the time was a complex commercial project with 21 consultants, a hotshot client, and a national developer. I felt at the time that I was contributing to a project that was incredibly important and that somehow I was having an enormous impact on the universe.
Well, not even 6 months after opening, the restaurant and lounge I had worked so hard to create, were closed due to financial problems plaguing my client. I was left feeling empty, like I had poured my heart and soul into an endeavor that was futile. That experience really made me take a step back from how I was going about working and living my life.
One of the unintended gifts of the recent state of the economy has been having some breathing room to take in other areas of my life more fully. My relationship with my significant other of 5 years is better than ever; being part-time step mom to his ten year old daughter is fulfilling in ways that only parenting can be; and spending time with my parents for extended periods of time has been so enriching. My health is now a primary focus, with eating regular well-balanced meals, exercising, and indulging in meditation. I have to admit that I am getting used to the experience of having time to smell the proverbial roses.
So, maybe this economic downturn gave me what I needed all along – family, a deeper relationship with myself, and the space to explore my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I still take on projects, but they are enriched with an expanded perspective that there is more to life than just architecture. And that it is from this internal place of already experiencing joy that I can create not just beautiful homes and spaces, but a beautiful life.
Amy Birdsall, Assoc. AIA, is President of Inspiratec Studios, Inc. which is a boutique design firm in Aspen, CO that specializes in classic, modern, luxury design of hospitality and residential environments.