Monday, August 2, 2010

Not an Architect

I’ve never wanted to do one thing or live in one place for the rest of my life.  I get bored quickly, so I like to keep my options open.  When a decision is forced on me, I tend to panic, over-analyze, and immediately regret my choice.

In third grade, I had to choose a musical instrument to play.  After assessing the pros and cons of every possible instrument, I told my mother I wanted to play the violin.  Five minutes later, I started to worry, “Does this mean I’ll never play the flute?”

When I had to choose which colleges to apply to, I made an initial list of 109 schools and devised my own ranking system using 13 different-colored magic markers. I eventually settled on Tulane University, the “Harvard of the South” and the esteemed alma mater of such notables as Ruth Ginsberg, Newt Gingrich, and Jerry Springer.  It was a complex decision, but the key selling points were warm weather, an unenforced drinking age, and the fact that I could go there for free.

I assumed the tough decision was behind me and I could procrastinate for a few years before declaring a major.  But then Tulane informed me that if I wanted to enter the School of Architecture, I had to decide right away.  It seemed ridiculous that they would expect me to know whether or not I wanted to be an architect.  I had to go to the library to find out what an architect actually did (Google came into existence about a month later).  I tried to imagine myself conducting feasibility studies, preparing drawings, and developing construction plans.  I seem to remember borrowing a T-square and sketching a few ugly buildings.  In the end, I went with the odds.  Between “Architect” and “Not Architect,” I figured my calling probably fell into the latter.

Years later, I lived in a high-rise located directly across from the Chrysler Building.  The apartment offered an up-close view of the elaborate silver crown with its seven terraced arches.  Every time I looked out the window, I felt a pang of regret.

I used to say that nothing was out of the question, but the older I get, the harder it is to lie to myself.  Realistically, I will probably never design an art deco skyscraper.  Or go to an Ivy League institution.  But, hey, I might still learn to play the flute.


  1. I can't believe you still have the original college pros-and-cons document! Great post!

  2. This reminds me of something a grad student said to me when I was working a campus job during undergrad. He drew a little sketch on a napkin and said that life is like a bike wheel. We start in the middle and as we choose a path (or a spoke) and move down that path, the further we get from all the other paths we could have taken. I found it disheartening then as a college sophomore. And I find it disappointing now ten years later as it becomes more and more a reality. But I can't help clinging to the romanticized thought of dancing and skipping across the spokes. I like the quote "It's never too late to be what you might have been."