April 16, 2010

The Long Downhill

My final design review was held Wednesday. This was not the event it is for most of my contemporaries. The other architecture thesis students held their reviews back to back over the course of two days at the beginning of the month with the majority of the faculty of architecture and many of the undergraduate and graduate students in attendance. I did not go to any of them. I was still working.

As a dual degree student, I was not held to their deadlines, though I think perhaps I should have been. But I took advantage of my standout status to spend two further weeks on my project. Those two weeks were spent in production, not design, simply making the plans, elevations, sections, maps, and models necessary to demonstrate the final design outcome.

When I pinned up it was before my committee only. I had suggested inviting other architecture faculty, but each time I mentioned it, I was met with a curious reluctance, my mentors hemming and hawing. (“Well, you can if you want to…”) In the end, only my friends Bret and Andrea came to see all my hard work and lend both moral support and a fresh take on the design. I can’t say how much I appreciate them. Among other things it proved, once again, that Bret actually is a savvy designer and expert (future) in his field, not just the lazy, cynical asshole he purports to be.

In any case, I was understandable stressed, but the review went well enough. Criticisms were technical in nature and focused mostly on small errors in my plans and sections. This caused a bit of anxiety as I don’t want to fail on a technicality, but the fact that there was little criticism of the design itself leads me to believe it was successful. The faculty retreated to the dean’s conference room to discuss while I took down my boards. Duncan emerged later to ask me to make the technical corrections to the drawings and have the book ready to be reviewed by the committee on Tuesday. My final defense is Thursday, which is also the deadline to turn in the book (and the check) for binding into a thesis. He said my presentation was well done.

So now, I still have a scary to-do list, but it seems I just might (MIGHT!) actually pull this off. The book is on page 135 already and I haven’t even begun the second section. Mind you, ninety percent is compiling what has been done these past two years, and only ten percent will be creating new material, which I will tackle on Monday. I will send it to my faculty on Tuesday, make corrections, defend and submit it on Wednesday.

I also have two essays and a term paper due for urban design, two essays and a research presentation due for professional planning practice, and a graphic presentation to finish up for an independent study from last summer which remains incomplete. The research presentation, book, and at least two essays are due next week, the rest the week after that, with the possibility of some of it being pushed back into the third week. But I feel unaccountably cheerful. I even cleaned my studio space yesterday.

Because exactly three weeks today, I’m going to walk across the stage at the Rococo Theater in downtown Lincoln twice and receive my Master in Architecture and Master in Community & Regional Planning. Scary, huh? I’m going to be a “master” of something twice over.

Before then, in two weeks, I’m flying to Burbank to visit University of the West about their Master of Divinity in Buddhist Chaplaincy program. I have spent this last month really questioning my motivation.

I was particularly concerned over the possibility that chaplaincy would be a consolation prize or simply a goal for the sake of having a goal, but my intention has crystallized in the past two stressful weeks. My relations with my faculty mentors have been particularly strained. Karen Maezan Miller wrote something over at Sunspace recently.

“We meditate because there is a six-foot flame dancing on top of our heads. It has made us mighty uncomfortable for quite some time up there. We try to pretend otherwise, but have you noticed? We have a fire on our heads! It keeps crossing the containment lines!...

“That’s how bad it has to get. If meditation is one of an array of self-improvement options you are considering, you probably won’t do it. By all means, try the ninety-minute massage first! Get the new wardrobe and the hair tint! Meditation is the option of having no other option, no higher goal, and no more righteous intention than saving your sorry ass from a living hell.”

Well, completing a thesis in the College of Architecture may not be a living hell, but there are many who will argue it is damned close. In particular, it is my interpersonal relations which became particularly strained as I constantly challenged Duncan (to his annoyance) in an effort to understand what he was advising and became frustrated with Rumiko’s flat out refusal to answer questions. I walked away in angry tears once last week (and I’m sure that conversation wasn’t fun on Rumiko’s side either), and thought there must be a more skillful way to handle such things. And I’m going to damn well figure out what it is! Suddenly chaplaincy seemed exactly the right thing to do.

The tickets were bought weeks ago, but I am looking forward to the trip now with a little less trepidation than before. I still don’t want to live in Los Angeles (shudder), but it might actually be pleasant to be warm on a regular basis. The very idea of attending a university with only two-hundred fifty students seems bizarre. The College of Architecture alone has over four-hundred enrolled students on a campus of over twenty thousand. It is downtown while UWest is suburban in one of the country’s most sprawling cities. It will be quite a change.

I am finishing out my job at the Office or Rural Health. They have promised to hire a replacement for me to train before I go. In a few short minutes I have a meeting with Dr. Nam, who has been brought in to consult, to familiarize him with the data we use for our studies. At this point I intend to finish up and polish off the literature review I’ve begun, but am unlikely to start any new projects. My last day should be May 13th.

My father has found me the coolest graduation present ever. On May 14th my folks and I are flying to Chicago for four days and a multi-building Frank Lloyd Wright tour. I can show them Millennial Park and we can all go explore Robie House and Unity Temple. I am greatly looking forward to it.

After that my summer is still a big blank spot. I’ll probably drive out and spend at least a week working at Shambhala Mountain Center. If I can find no more gainful employment, that week might turn into a summer. Dickie, who I worked for two summers ago, has assured me I am wanted. That will cover my room and board at least, so I can save my remaining pennies to move to LA in the fall, assuming my visit to UWest goes well. The financial commitment of such a long move is daunting and for that reason I hope my condo sells well this summer so I will not feel quite as guilty if I have to ask to borrow some money from my parents.

So, that is where I am. It’s spring and the sun is shining. I wore sandals for the first time yesterday. My windows are open, the grass and trees are green, and the flowers are blooming. My cat is happy to sit in the window sill and smell the rain.

It all feels like a long downhill slide, or perhaps a roller coaster with a few ups and downs, but basically moving on momentum alone for the next four weeks, and after that, who knows?

1 comment:

Teacher Jim said...

Not exactly how you planned but things do seem to be going well. Hang in there, it's just life. [smile] And remember we're all there with ya' in the same boat. [bigger smile]