Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fireman. Nurse. Unicorn.

An iconic staple of an American childhood is being ask what you, the little one, wants to be when you grow up. The answers can be grouped as either extremely pragmatic or highly impractical (never anything in between) and are recalled by your family long into adulthood (even as the information seems an absurd folly best attributed to a complete stranger: your four-year-old self). Fireman. Nurse. Unicorn. I wanted to be an architect (this was also my dad's idea, so either it was a shared dream, or a transferred one). So when I saw the article in today's New York Times on young architects that were finding new angles for their dreams in this rocky economy that seems to be hating on jobs for architects (notes to architects: join the club), it made me think. What do I want to be when I grow up (i.e. right now)? Many of my friends have taken definite paths that seem to suit them: politicians, pr executives, lawyers, PhD's in obscure topics.

I've pursued this and that, but what am I? My response to this article was surely influenced by a day spent updating my resume, an obscurely professional part of adulthood that - when done correctly - doesn't look like me at all (at least not the parts that I'd like to meet at a dinner party). Which makes me think that maybe the most savvy thing I can do in this new economy - like these young jobless architects are discovering - is be myself. This can't be an excuse for dalliance. I must commit myself to the varied things I'm passionate about, as determined as my friends who study for the bar or their orals or campaign for public office. I need to stop seeing my mix of interests as a deficit and start seeing its value. Because I suspect that professional resilience and diversity will be staples of this new economy. And that's pretty exciting to imagine, especially since being an architect never worked out.

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