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Pretty simple and straightforward sentence – “Your first architectural job is important.” Let me clarify that I’m not talking about summer jobs or internships … those don’t really count. No, what I’m talking about is the first real job a person takes once they’ve graduated from college – the job that signals the beginning of their professional career.
Yesterday, I took a lunchtime site visit with Landon Williams, a young associate in my office, to check in on the construction progress of this year’s playhouse. During the return leg of this trip, we had a conversation about first jobs. It seems to me that very few people take a position in one man shops anymore – something that was fairly common when I graduated from college in 1992. Some of you might recall that the economy was in poor shape and jobs for recently graduated architects were hard to find. A great many of the people I graduated with had a hard time finding work and took whatever job they could find – most of which were in very small architectural offices, a trend that I don’t really see continuing today. Most of the single person offices I know of tend to make their first hire someone in the 2-to-5 years experience range.
My first job was with a sole-practitioner and I was the first employee he had ever hired (this is the same person that I am currently partnering with some 25 years later) and since it was only the two of us, there were opportunities afforded to me out of necessity. Despite the fact that I didn’t know very much, I found myself drawing complete projects within weeks, running client meetings by myself, and having an unreasonable amount of latitude with the design work on these projects for someone with my experience. The necessary responsibilities made available to me during this first real job fundamentally shaped how I worked and how I view this profession, even to this day .
Despite any currently available evidence, in 1992 I was not a “go out to the bar” type of person, and my future wife was 200 miles south of Dallas getting her Master’s Degree in Mathematics. I was 24 years old when I took my first “real” job and I didn’t have anything else I would rather be doing than going up to work. While some of my friends had taken jobs in larger companies, doing site adapts for big-box chain stores, I was free to do almost anything I wanted. There were no timesheets, just deadlines. If I wanted to spend 30 hours coming up with design options or building chipboard study models, as long as I got to where I needed to be by a certain day, I could do whatever I wanted.
And so I did just that. My transition to the real world of practicing architecture was just a few degrees off from my college studio experience. I have no doubt that my generally sunny disposition towards this profession was fundamentally shaped during this first job.
If you are an architect, your first job is incredibly important because this job, more than any others that will follow, will have a profound impact on how you come to view the profession. This first job will effect how you think about architecture and professional practice, it will shape the way you think about design and how you actually put it into practice, and it will forge what sort of investment you will have with this profession. I am not advocating that unless you work for a sole practitioner you are going to be miserable – that’s just how it worked out for me. As I was having this conversation with Landon I couldn’t help but look at him and think that his current opportunities right out of school are not so different from mine 25 years ago. My office is full of people who are self-motivated problem solvers and I ask them to do things every day that they don’t know how to do yet – in some cases, I don’t know how to do them either. Not knowing how to do something isn’t typically the problem, it’s when you don’t do anything about this ignorance that things turn sour. I think small offices are forced to empower people to believe that they can do more than they think they can out of necessity, and empowerment typically has a profound effect on an individual’s development.
Does this mean that you’re doomed if your first job is terrible? No, but if your job isn’t what you need it to be, I’d recommend doing something about it as soon as possible.
Your toddler goes through quite a range of emotions in one day, right? His little body and mind want to do so many things, yet he’s only cognitively and emotionally able to handle so much. Melt downs are common. Toddlers want what they want and they want it NOW! No ifs, ands or buts. This can sometimes make parenting a challenge.
How can we as adults help our little ones regulate their emotions?
- Describe your toddler’s feeling for her: “You look like you’re feeling sad because Daddy left for work” or “You are really mad because Grandma wouldn’t give you a second cookie!” This helps little ones recognize feelings that they cannot yet express on their own.
- Read books that talk about feelings and emotions. You can find great titles for toddlers at Amazon such as “I Was So Mad”, “Hands are Not for Hitting”, or “The Pout Pout Fish”. This helps young children understand that feeling a range of emotions is normal, but teaches them appropriate ways to manage their emotions.
- Talk about the difference between your child’s emotions and other people’s emotions. This is higher level thinking and may be better understood by older toddlers. Such, as, “You are laughing because you got the ball from Billy, but Billy is sad and crying because you took it from him without asking to have a turn.”
- Separate your child’s behavior from her emotions. Everyone gets angry, but we need to teach children how to manage anger in appropriate ways. For example, “I know you are mad, but you may not hit your sister” or “I know you are frustrated, but you may not throw your blocks. If you throw them again I will put them away.”
- Be a good role model. Remember that your toddler mimics your own feelings and behavior related to those feelings. If you scream & yell when angry, than your toddler is apt to do the same. Try to keep calm and keep your own emotions in check when dealing with your toddler’s behaviors and emotions. The calmer and matter of fact you are, the more this helps your toddler to regulate his emotions.
For those of you paying attention, I am almost at my wit’s end. I have been sitting at my keyboard writing what could generously be described as “articles” on what it means to be an architect, and in a somewhat lesser capacity, pulling the curtain back on the process of working with an architect since January 10th, 2010. It’s hard to believe but this is the 817th article I’ve written since “Who Wants to be Relevant?” my very first article … you would have thought that I’d be better at this by now.
But I’ve just about had enough … 486,712 worth of enough.
This site, the one that I have painstakingly built and showered with blood, sweat, and tears, has been under almost constant attack for the past year. I couldn’t tell you why I have been singled out – maybe it’s karma – or maybe it’s just bad luck. Whatever it is, I am about to give up and throw in the towel. The image above is a screen capture of the IP addresses from just the past 7 days that have tried to brute force their way into my site. Even though this is a list of just 7,961 blocked attempts, this is only part of the story. I also know that in the last 5 days, I’ve had another twenty-four IP addresses blocked for attempting 486,712 times to log on to the administrative page on my site.
Let that soak in a moment. 486,712
That’s 68 times per minute over a 5-day period. Why would someone want to log on to my site, a site whose best days are arguably in the rearview mirror? Sure, back in 2012 “Life of an Architect” was considered one of the best architectural blogs you could find – at least according to some:
Even though we’re staring into the gaping maw of 2013, it feels like the early aughts on Life of an Architect. [ … ] Bob Borson treats his digital diary in the confessional and modest manner that the blog format originally intended. The Dallas-based architect’s discussion of materials, the occasional existential dilemma, and other day-to-day scenes should be relatable to most working professionals.
Architectural Record Dec’ 2012
As a result of these constant attacks, I spend an extraordinarily large amount of time trying to fix website issues – an area that I have extremely limited knowledge. I have tried just about everything you can think of, but whatever successes I experience are short-lived and the issues manifest themselves in a different manner with similar results. Slow loads, no loads, blacklisted url’s … the list goes on and on.
What I see on my end of things is that I can’t respond to emails sent to me with a “hotmail” extension because I’m blacklisted. I’m not even sure that I’m receiving all the emails that get sent to me. I’ve seen visitor traffic on some days drop by 80% because the site won’t load. Even now, if you look at the top of my website, the banner is missing. Remember? It used to look like this:
but now it won’t load even though everything on my site tells me that it’s there and it has loaded … but my eyes don’t lie. It isn’t there. At any rate, I just wanted to let you know what’s going on and try to explain why I haven’t been publishing as many articles. I’ve been spending my time trying to learn everything I can in order to get back to doing what I want – which is sharing the life of an Architect – whatever that means. I do not want to spend my time talking to IT Administrators about hosting issues, content delivery networks, and whether or not I have a correctly assigned SSL certificate in place. This is not where my interests lie and as a result, I think I might only have a few more really good attempts left in me to try and correct this problem.
The next steps for me probably include finding a new template, migrating my content over to this new template, then switching over to a new server host and saying a few prayers. In the meantime, if you come to the site and things don’t look quite right just know that I am working on it.
Keep your fingers crossed for me –
Tragedy and personal crisis strike. Because we’re human. Because we live in an imperfect world where things often go wrong for inexplicable reasons, leaving us to grapple with the aftermath. I pondered this reality as I recently dealt with a crisis of my own in a whirlwind of events, a relative experienced a mental health crisis mounting in a five-day stay in a psychiatric hospital. They’d tried to take their own life.
The days surrounding the news were surreal. None of us knew what to say to each other to console; our sadness only continued to exist in a vacuum contained within us all.
My role in times of calamity has always been the nurturer, ensuring others are well-fed because managing grief means food and nourishment are oft forgotten. And so I was overwhelmed at what had happened and overwhelmed because I had little space or time to process my emotions acting as an anchor for everyone else. At one point, I broke down into a heavy sob after fumbling through a dinner dish, much to the confusion of everyone else.
I didn’t know what to say to any of my family members; I only knew to act, to be of service. I also didn’t know what to say to friends as I slid into a more and more melancholic state—the more I confided to friends, admitting the emotional toll, the more hapless I felt.
Often in difficult situations, the words escape us, even when we have the purest intentions; we can be unhelpful even when we start from a place of compassion and empathy. From the other side, wading deep into something that was difficult to navigate mentally, emotionally, and physiologically, I knew with a piercing clarity how nuanced it can be to comfort others in a way which aids and doesn’t unintentionally injure.
But how do we do that? How do we do something we aren’t taught and may feel clueless about in terms of execution? How do we comfort a friend struggling with a mental health crisis, the death of a loved one, a loss of one’s home, or other personal tragedies? How do we help support those close to us when they need it?
Here’s some guidance on being a comfort to others during a time of need:
Avoid empty clichés.
One of the phrases I heard most often from friends when expressing what had transpired with my relative was, “Let me know if you need anything.” It struck me then how generally unhelpful that offer can be, especially knowing I’d uttered it so many times to others myself. It conveys great intentions but does very little to soothe and leaves a whole lot open to interpretation. Instead, tailor your words to what you know about the other person, what you can specifically offer, and what might resonate for them.
Take ownership of your support.
As a bookend to the previous note, create a path for others to walk through with ease. Avoid a situation where others have to do any heavy lifting to enlist your support. Expecting someone who is already emotionally spent to expend effort reaching out increases the likelihood they won’t reach out at all.
Read more: 4 things I wish I’d known while grieving
Think about your strengths and act on them.
During life’s rough patches, we often go into crisis mode—we are adept at making sure pressing things are handled while the basics often fall to the wayside. Think simply and of your strengths: are you an amazing cook? Make a nourishing meal and offer to drop it off. Gifted with creativity? Make a card, write a thoughtful note inside, and deliver it in person or into the mail. Show up. Be proactive and offer up suggestions of practical things you can do beyond open-ended (and sometimes empty) offers.
Be compassionate and empathetic. Resist the urge to take anything personally.
Sometimes you’ll do everything you can to be supportive and it’ll still be met with apathy or no response. Understand that others are tussling with something tenuous and may not be in the space to be receptive to support. Resist the urge to make it a personal offense; communicate your love and support and leave the door open for when they might be ready.