As many of you probably know, I graduated with a degree in architecture last year. As you may also know (or at least been able to figure out), I am not working in my “chosen field.” Instead, I spent a couple months unemployed immediately following graduation, and then managed to find a basic retail job, which I have been at since. I have looked for jobs in architecture, but the sea of “entry level” internships asking (and getting) 3-5 years’ experience was discouraging, to say the least. But one nice thing about a mind-numbing job is it gives you plenty of time to think.
And I’m starting to wonder if architecture is really what I want to do after all.
I know, I know, it’s not the best realization to have after spending four years going into debt, but there it is. Several factors have contributed to my current state of mind.
One is the fact that, even while I was in school, I was never that truly passionate about what I was studying. Sure, it was interesting, but in a detached, intellectual way. I could tell that I didn’t possess the fire, the drive that several of my classmates had in spades. Architecture wasn’t my life. It was something I got into with the thought “hey, this could be fun” rather than “OMGWTFBBQ DIS IZ MAH PURPOSE!!!1!”
And I had no interest in making architecture my life: I had too much fun outside of school (reading, gaming, SCA, friends) to give myself over completely to the Black Beast of Productivity. One experience was extremely telling for me: it was my second semester of my first year, and my studio professor noticed the novel I was currently reading on the side of my desk. She looked at it, then asked me “How do you have time to read?” Shocked by her disbelief, I told her that it helped keep me sane. She was equally shocked, as if she couldn’t fathom the possibility of doing anything else while there was architecture to be done.
Slight difference in priorities, to say the least.
I probably should have taken that as a warning. But, since my burnout in college (a story for another time. Short version: set out as double science major, ended up French by default), it was important to me to actually follow through with something I set out to do. I wanted to succeed just to spite them. Plus, I can put on a good facade (no pun intended) of passion, and it’s pretty easy for me to “get by” academically. I just tried not to think too hard about things, which is surprisingly easy when you’re poor and sleep-deprived.
I know not of which you speak. Four years for a Bachelor’s in Engineering Physics, another year-and-a-half for a (thankfully non-thesis; crazy, not stupid) Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, you’d think I’d be able to find something in there I’m passionate about. Nope. Personally, I think it’s crazy that A) We expect people in their early 20’s to know what they want to do with the rest of their life, B) we put so much emphasis on jobs with college degrees attached when a lot of people would be happy with much more menial stuff, if it actually paid the bills.
Bitter? Why no, not in the least.
Something that’s really important to remember here, though: Passion for one’s work is rare. There are people out there who live and breathe the work I do. There is one in my office. He looks at me like I have an extra eye from time to time, and I him. Most of the people around here have a general comfort with their work with flashes of “oh, this is fun!” This is still their career. Work is paid rather than something you pay to do because it is generally not the most awesome thing you could be doing with the time you have.
This is not to say that architecture should be your career. It is a reminder that passion for the work you eventually do may be a bar set a little high. Sometimes it is enough to not hate it and for it to pay you enough to go do thing you actually enjoy.
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