Hello readers! It is that time again: feature of the week! Every Wednesday at 1pm, I feature the work of another writer, artist, or designer on When Life Gives You Lemons. It’s my way of showing support as a fellow … Continue reading
Happy Wednesday, readers! Looking for something to make you chuckle on your lunch-break or something to distract you from the monotony of work? Look no further than today’s feature of the week: e-MORFES. Their post on clever advertisements will make you look twice, think twice and you might even think about the way YOU see advertising. Enjoy your Wednesday, the day known all to well as HUMP DAY.
PS: Stay tuned for this Saturday’s post at 12pm when I’ll be posting an update on how my summer is going. 🙂
“Who We Are”
Countless times I have sat at my desk in the design studio and thought to myself, “What am I doing?”
Usually, I mean this question literally, as on some occasions in studio when the delirium has hit me like a ton of bricks and the model I am working on begins to resemble Duchamp’s Fountain, 1917. Today, I am thinking of this question more figuratively.
So far, the toughest years of my life have been the ones I’ve spent in architecture school. The long hours, the sleepless nights, the brutal critiques… Oddly, the number of times I have thought about quitting architecture school has only been more than a few: once during the spring of my freshman year with the worst professor I had ever had, second, my sophomore year when I had been working on a final project in Design Studio III, and now, my junior year, finishing my first semester of graduate school (as I am in an accelerated masters program).
It’s funny, all design students share a common “secret:” if you haven’t thought about quitting architecture at least more than once, you’re insane. We all (design students) walk around with the weight of our schoolwork on our backs – some of us literally carrying our plexi glass and matte board! At the end of the day, I think all design students want to be architects; whether or not we get there is the insurmountable foe that we dream does not exist.
As architecture students, I think we all carry the concern that, even though we will have worked our chops off in school, we are somehow pitifully destined to become “CAD monkeys.” Twenty-somethings that sit behind a desk all day at a computer, drafting floor-plans for a firm, using one of the most basic design softwares called Auto CAD, working from 9am to 5pm. On the flip-side, we also worry that we will become highly successful, depressed architects that have no time for their families or friends, and are instead consumed by the mundane repitition of clients, deadlines, and projects.
Pretty depressing stuff, right? Well, recently, I have thought of quitting. In my head, I constantly calculate my future, weighing pros and cons that really only seem like cons: I either become a “CAD monkey” or a really successful, yet pitifully bitter architect. I think the only thing that has kept me going is one simple concept:
WHO. WE. ARE.
Those three words make up the ending of a sentence told to me when I was literally at my whit’s end. Only a few weeks ago, during the crunch-time of my first final in my graduate design studio, I had a real melt-down. Sitting on the bed in my brother’s apartment during Thanksgiving break, the night before my flight back to Miami, I thought to myself,
“I cannot do this. I cannot continue to work this hard, be this exhausted, be this drained. I can’t do this anymore.”
That’s when I reached for the phone.
“Renzo, I am so sick of all the work we have to do. Please tell me not to give up,” was the text that I sent. A classmate of mine, taking the same studio that I was, I reached out to Renzo because he was a friend. While waiting for him to respond, I texted Jasmin, another close friend of mine telling her, “I don’t want to wake up tomorrow.” The last person I texted that night was a very close friend of mine named Franchesca, asking her to pray for me.
While waiting for Renzo’s response, I remember feeling hopeless, scared that I would not be able to complete all of my work for the upcoming deadline, and entirely spent. His response to me was, “Danyealah, you cannot quit. That is not who we are.” I remember looking at my phone and feeling baffled. “How could he possibly know who I am? A quitter? Was that even what I had meant?” Then, with hot tears rolling down my face, a light-bulb went off in my head.
That is not who I am.
The next thing I said to myself was: “Who am I?”
Befuddled with a myriad of thoughts, I was unable to answer this question at the time. Now that the semester has ended and winter-break has begun, I have had a some time to give this question some true thought. So far, I have started by reflecting on the parts of myself that I know: I am a dancer. I am a singer. I am a caring friend. I am a poet. I am a Christian. Fair enough! Now, for the soul-searching… I have decided I am not a quitter. It is not who I am. I determine the person I am willing to be, and at this point in my life, I am most certainly not a quitter. What I am is a survivor. I would be lying through my teeth if I were to tell you that graduate school is cake – it’s not. Architecture school, in general, is just one of those things I have to push through in order to get to the position I desire. That position is definitely not behind a desk in the back of someone’s office, punching in codes from 9am-5pm. The position I desire to be in, is a position from which I can help other people. After all, that is my understanding of what architects do – we help people. We provide the opportunity for an enhanced quality of life through the means of design. That is who I am – a person willing to go through the fire, to come out with a degree that allows me to pursue a passion of helping other people.
All in all, it is the simple things in life that sometimes pave the way for a much broader understanding of who we are. In my case, it took my friend Renzo simply telling me that I was not a quitter, to nudge me toward a more hopeful frame of mind. Indeed, I have learned to persevere. What I offer to you, my reader, is to never give up. As my grandmother would say, “Keep on keepin’ on.” And as my friend Renzo would say,
“Never give up. That is not who we are.”
A human machine
Working, folding, turning.
The child of capitalism –
I repeat, produce, consume.
As gears turn within,
Bolt, join, connect.
Mocking the human hand,
Diluting human process:
Metamorphosing our bones to steel.
Life Lesson # 5
There are many ways to describe the human reaction to pain that involves the shedding of tears. As people, we all have our own ways of dealing with our tears. Some cry alone, with other people, with close friends, with loved-ones. As for me, I cry alone. I weep alone. The thought of someone else being around to witness is usually the thing that makes me cringe the most. Ironically, someone being around to care for me when I am weeping is usually what I need the most. Sobbing alone is like watching an incredibly painful film without anyone around you to offer you popcorn, to squeeze your hand during intense scenes, or exchange looks when the actors have done something really outrageous.
Crying alone for me feels like death.
I feel the tears, hot and salty. I feel my body tremble slightly as my shoulders curl in. I hear myself breathing, heavily and slowly. Perhaps the worst part of all, is that when I am really upset about some event, or situation in my life, I usually let out a sardonic chuckle just before the tears. I can honestly admit that it takes more guts for me to cry in somebody’s arms than it does to cry at all. When another person is there to witness my emotional outlet it solidifies the pain – the pain I feel is real because another person is sharing in my human experience. To feel another person ailing can be agonizing. You are there with them as they nakedly reveal the evidence that they’ve been hurt. But, for the sake of remaining sane, it is almost always necessary to have someone you care about, whether it is a friend, a dog or a relative, around to console you when you shed your tears. This is a truth that I learned my sophomore year of college, during my second year of architecture school.
First and foremost, architecture school is hard. You can ask anyone who knows anything about design school and they will tell you that it is brutal, the workload can be ruthless, and that the stress is ongoing. Breakdowns for architecture students are usually always around the corner. Our breakdowns seem to lurk around after two or three days without sleep, and tend to creep up on us in the twilight hours of the morning. One of my most memorable meltdowns occurred at around seven in the morning.
It was the day of my final critique for an abstract, semester-long, landscape architecture project. I had not slept in two days. My steady resolve and gentle momentum to continue working on my final model for the review, had dwindled down to pure exhaustion. The only thoughts that wrestled in my mind were, “I haven’t slept in two days, and I have how many more drawings to do?!” And, “Shit, is my project even any good?” I was in perfect condition for a mental disaster. Imagine: back completely hunched over my drafting table, eyes entirely red and baggy, and my outfit the same as the one I was wearing the day before. Adding the final touches to my model, I was gluing 1/32″ linear elements (long, extremely thin, basswood sticks) onto an angular piece of plexiglass. I might have been less frustrated mentally if my hands had not been shaking, if the crazy glue had dried as quickly as stated on the bottle, if the skin around my finger-tips wasn’t peeling due to inadequate scraping off of glue, and if my patience had not been worn completely thin. All I needed was for the sticks to actually stick.
Before I knew it, the tears came. Soft and slow, I felt them on my face, one after the other, unable to rationalize in my mind if I would actually be able to complete my project by 2pm. All I could think about were my grades, the drawings that I had left to complete, how the cheap microns I was using were drying out, the time I’d spent laboring over the concept for the project, and my inability to get the 1/32″ linear elements to actually stay put. To make matters worse, some of the people I knew who were working around me stopped what they were doing and stared at me.
“Oh my God… is she crying?”
“Woah, she’s actually crying.”
Although I had heard what they were saying, I really couldn’t stop myself from sobbing. Then, as if God had heard the faint prayer in my heart, one of my friends, Jorge Rodriguez, who was working close by, looked at me, got up from his seat, walked over to my drafting area, and embraced me. He wiped the tears from my face with his hand, and with every weary ounce of frustration I possessed, I told him, “Jorge, I don’t think I can do this.” He just looked at me as if I’d said something absurd and said,
“Dany, you can do this. I know that you can.”
He hugged me again, asked me if I was going to be alright, and returned to his seat.
In that moment, Jorge was just the friend I needed. The push I needed, the encouragement I needed, the love I needed, the it-is-okay I needed – his kindness was what I needed to move on. He was right, though. I could do it. Later on that day, I gave my final presentation. It was eloquent, polished, clear, and the short, button-down, black dress and fish-net tights I was wearing looked damn good. Not only did I receive an “A” as the final grade for that presentation, my entire studio voted my project as overall extremely well-done, and my professor instructed myself and two other students to hang our work in the student gallery.
To this day, I don’t think Jorge knows just how pivotal that moment was when he held me. I can honestly say that the quality of my tears in the midst of my breakdown was priceless. Having a hand to comfort me and share in that emotional experience with me, was even more valuable than I can relay. I learned that sometimes crying alone is the exact opposite of what we need. We need the human hand, the exchange of looks, the embrace, the pat on the back, the kind words.
Those are the things that measure the quality of our tears.