I’d been noticing
a number beautifully designed modern buildings around town, obviously designed by the same architect. My wife was kind enough to point out the architect’s office and set up a meeting with him. We toured this architect’s bustling business, met a few of his team members, and saw photos and drawings of his many award winning projects hanging on the walls. In addition to his office, his property had a guest home, and slightly up the hillside, his gorgeous primary residence.
This architect is kind, a few years younger than me. We hit it off and so decided to get together for lunch the following week. As I contemplated returning to Washington DC with my family, my job at a corporate firm, and our tiny studio apartment—I couldn’t help wonder about some of my life choices. I had many opportunities to start my own firm, but always took the safer, easier route of working for someone else. This architect worked the past 10 years to create something tangible that was his, while I had done a lot of great work, but someone else always got the recognition, and with less risk for me came less financial reward.
Now that I have a family to provide for, I couldn’t help but feel that my decisions had somehow let them down. Perhaps I was less established in my career than I should be and wouldn’t it be nice to trade situations with this architect? I noticed my mind thinking that word “should”, and immediately recognized it as a sign not to take my thoughts too seriously.
A few days later my wife and I met the architect for lunch. The architect opened up to us that his partner and two children had recently left him. He was visibly distraught and we could tell he needed to be comforted, but we barely knew him. In a thank you note after the lunch, we offered any assistance we could, and we were genuinely happy that he was going to stay with his relatives for the holidays, which might help to ease his pain.
This is a situation all too common among leading architects. The field is so competitive that one needs to abandon all else and do the work of 3 to 4 people in order to be competitive and build a successful business. This architect was one of many I have seen who have lost families, their health, and their lives in pursuit of a “successful” career in the field of architecture. I have yet to meet one of these driven individuals who has looked back late in life and said it was worth it.
I have great compassion for this architect and the many others I know who have found themselves in this situation. I smiled at my mind for thinking it might be worth it for me to trade lives with someone, particularly this person, nice as he may seem.
As I write this, my beautiful wife is sitting in front of me, and my amazing daughter is sleeping quietly in the next room of our modest apartment. I wouldn’t change a thing.
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