Angst and woe: the career edition

I’ve felt sometimes that working at the place I am now was a bit of a cruel joke: I’m surrounded by architects and intern architects, I overhear people talking about architecture in ways that I used to, or about the work they’re doing that is helping them get closer to licensure and I think about how long ago I got my degree and how close I should have been by now to that myself, and . . . as if coming here to work every day isn’t a kind of reminder about what I spent years working towards, to then fail at getting into, repeatedly, and then, finally, be Told to walk away from.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been two years since I got the firm “stop. go no further” message. (There’d been previous incidents that strongly suggested that “stop” would come, but I didn’t know when.)

I also occasionally have to try and come up with a reasonable sounding answer to “Oh, you have a degree? Why are doing this job now, why did you change your mind?” that isn’t an outright lie (I don’t have strong moral qualms against lying, especially to evade stupid social crap or uncomfortable conversations with people I am not close to, but I’d simply prefer not to, particularly since a large part of my answer can come without mention of messages from gods, but “well, there’s another career field I really want to go into, and it isn’t this job, or this company, or even the kind o work the company does”).

I’ve wondered, often, what particular purpose (or more likely purposeS, plural) me having this job, in this place, serves. It is certainly a decent income, my direct supervisors are very supportive, my coworkers are pretty easy to work with, the general work environment and my duties are pretty good (if still just “paycheck job”). It supports me well, in a lot of material and emotional ways, and the combination is far, far better than any job I’ve had previously.

When I was looking for work after being redirected, there were a number of positions, not terribly dissimilar to my current one, at companies with different missions, some of which seemed much more closely aligned with the long-term career plan (something “landscape” oriented) than the architecture firm does. I vaguely recall one company that did some kind of land reconstruction work. But I found all of those job listings either just too late to apply, or never heard back. (And I used to think that was just bad luck; more recently I’ve started wondering if that was the case.)

So. I edit documents. I do the last round of QA/QC before a variety of text-based documents go out the door to our clients and consultants. I try to be as perfect as possible, but 100% all the time simply isn’t humanly achievable, particularly when I have a huge pile of work to get through in a short amount of time (at least for me; I know there are better proofreaders and editors out there). There have been many times where one of my coworkers, who had actual responsibility for sending the documents on their way, have pointed out I forgot to include some additional attachment in the document. (Less often do they catch things I missed in the text itself, but sometimes when I look at work I’ve already done, I find things I can’t believe I missed.) I’ve had a lot of anxiety about screwing up and getting yelled at for it, but the job has actually done wonders for alleviating that, since a) my coworkers overlook things all the time and b) other than one or two brief instances, no one has expressed anything like anger or disappointment or anything for me overlooking something.

That has been an unanticipated bonus. Planned or just . . . a fortunate accident? I don’t know.

The location has also turned out to be convenient in some other ways: it is very very close to the river that runs through the city, and it seems that my relationship with the River is pretty important. Proximity to the literal water definitely helped that come about. Some of the green wights who are important in my life have contacted me along the river, too, as there are actual shrubs and trees here (I’ve gotten ‘chased down’ on some of my lunchtime walks).

More recently, I’ve started to wonder if it was entirely intentional that I would get a job in an architecture firm so that I’d have to deal with the mess of feelings I have about NOT going into this as a career. Because some days, it really hits those buttons hard, and a couple times this year, I’ve had some dreams and/or major meltdowns (finally) related to the whole mess. One of them gave me a very potent and fitting metaphor for how I’ve felt about being redirected – it took me a few days to really understand it, but it hit really hard when it did. It was also the first time I felt someone really got how awful it has been (though I don’t know if that was literally one of my gods talking to me via the dream, or whether my mind made it all up; I don’t care, though if it was Someone else, I’d like to say thanks). I’ve tried, again, to go through my remaining stacks of sketches and books from grad school, to clean that stuff out, stop moving it around. But it’s largely ended in tears and not a lot of material removed from the apartment.

Just yesterday, while I was eating lunch, one of the architects – who never eats in the lunch room! – was there, talking to a colleague about architecture and how awesome it is to be able to use his position to improve the world, there are so many problems that could be resolved, that will NEED to be resolved, and architecture has a lot to offer, etc., etc. I ate and didn’t join in on the conversation, and tried to not let it get to me.

So then I had this dream last night, set in what felt like some sort of post-apocalyptic landscape. When I and my companions got to . . . wherever it was we were trying to get to (escape to maybe?), I felt at kind of a loss as to what to do now. There were people around picking through what seemed like an old clothing store, making new clothes out of scraps and stuff. One of them said to me, pretty matter of fact, “Be a designer. That’s what you’ve always been, so do that.”

It wasn’t uplifting, or comforting, or reassuring; it felt frustrating. In the dream, I think I had a more complex reaction to it, but when I woke, I couldn’t remember all the subtle reasons I was upset by this advice. Maybe because it seemed so obvious to the speaker, but I had no fucking idea what to really do. (Thank you, Captain Obvious, and your dream crew, for the symbolism so blatant it’s barely symbolism at all. Perhaps next time you can provide a few more details. Not sure if Message or subconscious working things out; I also watched “Iron Man 3” last night, and a few of the things Tony deals with in the course of the movie have some resonance.)

Today someone left a stack of old books on architecture and design on the lunch room table. I picked one of them up because the title caught my eye: “The nature of design.” Apparently it is an attempt by the author to answer the question “What is design?” How fitting.


About Fjothr Lokakvan

More or less Northern Tradition polytheist.
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