2017 has started and I am already trying to decide what it is I am supposed to be doing. Not in “Why I am I Here?” existential way, but more in the “I need to change out the filters at the blower unit up in the attic” sort of way.
While most people are busy making their New Year’s resolutions, I am busy thinking about all the things around my house that need my attention. Rather than just charging into action like a caveman, I decided to sit down to write my first post of the year and think about all the physical things I need to do. This is the 7th first article of the new year I’ve written since starting Life of an Architect, and I’m finding each subsequent one of them increasingly difficult to write. For inspiration, I went back and reread some of those other “first articles of the new year” posts. Unfortunately, this is the sort of stuff I found:
[From January 5th, 2015]
This is my first day back in the office since December 19th, 2014 … I have been on holiday for the last 16 days. During that time I did as little as possible, except perhaps set a new personal best for bottles of wine consumed. Normally I’m not all that much of a drinker but there is something about being on holiday that makes me want to sit around and drink. I actually have a slight concern about what’s going to happen to me once I retire – all I think I would do is lay around and drink wine. I’d have the same concern if I were to get a hot tub. [we all know that’s the only reason to have a hot tub because without the drinking, it’s just taking a bath.]
Other than the dates being slightly different from this year, this year isn’t much different than last year. The takeaway from last year’s post is that I clearly don’t get inspired when I am on holiday. Then again, I don’t suppose that’s the point of going on holiday – these breaks are supposed to recharge your batteries and get you excited to get back to work with renewed vigor and enthusiasm. But the sort of work I am thinking about now, as I sit here and write this article, is that I need to get busy fixing my own house.
For the record, I am living in my 6th house in 20 years of marriage (my wife deserves a medal) and there is a pattern that has evolved over those last 20 years and 6 houses … I’m not as handy as I used to be.
I have more than my fair share of tools, especially for someone who doesn’t use them anymore. When I bought my first house, I spent all my free time working on the house. I fixed all the single-pane windows, replaced all the door hardware, replaced all the trim in my house, rebuilt the deck, and on and on. On house number two, I built a bathroom – did all the framing myself. House number three … a little bit less. House number four, I can’t remember what I did – probably some painting. On house number 5 it was almost nothing. As I got a little bit older, and my station in life improved, I moved away from doing the work myself and started to hire people to do it for me. Since those people are a lot more expensive than I am, I started tackling smaller and fewer projects for the simple reason that I didn’t have the money to pay someone else to fix stuff unless it had to get fixed. (Paying for private school will do that to a person).
Despite my aversion to making New Year’s Resolutions, I think I am going to make a resolution to change that this year.
As a residential architect, I know how a lot of stuff gets built. I see it almost every day and I know what I am looking at. I know which tools are needed for which jobs, I know the difference between zillions of different screws and nails and when you are supposed to use which type. I am among those people who should be uniquely qualified to strap on a tool belt and get things done.
When I mentioned to my wife that I was going to start “enthusiastically” tackling the many things around our house that need attention, she responded with an unenthusiastic “Uh-huh, right.” She might have a point, my “fixing stuff around the house” habits have not been all that great for a long time. What I have working for me now is that a lot of the stuff around my current house is easily within my home improvement skill set. Do you remember this picture?
This is a picture of the paint job in my house right when we bought it … originally described as “the most murder-y paint color and paint job I have ever seen in my life. It literally looks like someone tried to finger-paint the walls with blood.”
I can easily fix this – in fact, I already have. But my house is currently riddled with examples like this. Bad trim, horrific popcorn texture on the ceilings, the inexplicable texture on walls … it goes on and on, and the time has come for me to take my knowledge and skill set and get to work.
As I write this, I am reminded of a moment that happened to me years ago that had a fairly profound impact on my professional life. I was at an event, along with some other architects, and we were talking to a group of people who were not architects. When the subject of “what do you do for a living?” came up, almost all the non-architects expressed some admiration for architecture, even stating that they had considered becoming an architect themselves at some point in their youth. One of the architects I was with responded by saying they were lucky that they chose to become something else (in this case, it was an accountant). In that moment, I decided that I would never respond to someone with that sort of comment. I love what I do for a living and can’t imagine doing something else. I encourage people who show an interest in architecture to pursue it if they can – it can be an extremely rewarding and fulfilling career.
So what made me think of that? As a residential architect, I am always a bit self-conscious when people come over to my house. What I am capable of is clearly not reflected in my own home and I have always discounted that as a reflection of how much money I had (or didn’t have as the case might be) … but not anymore. Rather than make excuses, I am going to take what I know and get to work.
… and just like Melinda Mae by Shel Silverstein, I am going to eat this whale one bite at a time.