Guest blog by Rachel Prinz
At the end of 2010, in the midst for trying to reframe my life’s work, asking myself if I was actually doing what I REALLY wanted to be doing, I sat down for a couple of weeks and read. I read every book I could get my hands on that dealt with finding and then cultivating your true purpose. When I read everything the library had and everything I could get them to borrow from other libraries, I sat with it… and I started observing my life as if watching from the outside.
The lost, the found, and the connectors
One of the first things that I realized was that I was surrounded by one of two types of people: I called them “the lost” – people who had no idea what they were doing or why, and in vastly greater numbers in my case… “the found” – people who not only knew what they wanted but were voracious at going after it.
I realized too that I was “a connector” in the modern parlance – I had lots of connected friends and I put them together regularly to help them achieve goals. Wow. That was awesome. But was that all I was here for? Wasn’t I supposed to be DOING something myself too? I had successfully built a network of “manifestors” but I myself wasn’t one. Nor did I know how to become one. Because, if you ask a manifestor how they became that, most will look at you quizzically. If they can come up with an answer, it is usually something like “I just tried everything until I got good at (a few, or one) and I committed to that with every fiber of my being.”
Then, a dear older architect friend of mine who is often more mentor than friend sent me a link to an award she thought I should apply for – a scholarship named after my best friend Jason Pettigrew, who died several years ago on the eve of his 30th birthday. She thought that I would be a natural fit for the award, which would pay for the study materials and the exams required for the Architect’s Registration Examination, which besides being prohibitively expensive is also the hardest endeavor an architectural designer can make, taking months if not years of study and 7-9 extremely rigorous tests in everything from structural engineering to architectural design to civil engineering to architecture history.
Not only do I find the test extremely intimidating, but ANYONE finding me worthy of an award in Jason’s name, I thought was completely undeserved. Jason was not only thriving in his practice, but successfully finishing the exams, a leader both in state and national AIA, active in his community AND finishing up seminary when he died. He was one of those rare leaders who made everyone want to come along, made everyone feel empowered and capable, including me. Which is why, when I found out I was going blind, I moved halfway across the country to be near him. If anyone could save me from myself as I grappled with my diagnosis, he could. And he did.
In my mind, I wasn’t worthy of any award in his name. I saw myself as just another architectural designer, of no real note or even purpose. But I wanted to see if I could be worthy of such an award.
Then, it all started to come together… I already knew from my time sitting in the silence of “what am I here for” what I was. I was 100% sure that I wanted to be an architectural educator. I LOVE architecture. I love talking about it, and from many perspectives – how light and shadow make us feel comfortable, or tense, and how we can use that tension to make people awake, alert, centered, hopeful… or the reverse. I love how architecture relates to psychology and art and science. I love the flow of it. How traditionalists and modernists battle for a voice in the vortex of spatial mediocrity we find everywhere around us. I knew my objective. And I had a collection of friends who were good at making things happen. I remembered the advice… “commit to that with every fiber of (my) being.” I didn’t think I could get a job teaching architecture in the academies without some credentials, but a friend gently prodded me one day, saying “So what? You want to teach? Then TEACH.”
Action and response
So I started talking. And writing. I approached anyone with anything to do with anything architectural, asked them how we could share ideas that would connect us in our purposes. I put the ideas out there, for free. Through blogs, through tweets, through Facebook… I shared my knowledge. In the year since I started sharing, I have been invited to speak to community groups, to the Historic Preservation Commission, to the Arts and Culture District, to the state archaeology convention, to 200 non-architects at the design series Pecha Kucha… eventually I even got invited to speak to an audience of 700 at TEDxABQ , which was posted on youtube, then picked up by one of the architecture newsreels and eventually seen by thousands of people. From there I was asked to come to colleges and speak to students of art and historic preservation. I started collecting new friends from all over the world on Twitter and Facebook, and through sharing our ideas and our ideals freely, we started seeing ways we could work together to achieve real changes in our communities. I was working too, and whenever I could, I would connect the people with a problem with the people with a solution. I was cultivating both my connector and my manifestor, and I didn’t need to be a professor to do it. I was teaming up with great people, bringing architectural education to everyday people, all over the world.
My own unique voice
So this year, the time has come again for the applications for the AIA Jason Pettigrew scholarship. And this year, I might just apply. Because I learned how I could REALLY make a difference, with my own unique voice, and in a powerful and uplifting way. I learned how to go for it even if it made no sense to anyone around me. I didn’t need permission. I just needed to look for opportunity and then be brave enough to try. More often than not, I was actually able to manifest making a difference. I think Jason would have liked that very much. I know I do.
Find out more about Rachel and her work at http://www.archinia.com/. To those whom my life may touch in slight measure, May I give graciously Of what is mine….
Links: TED http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmkIE0hfVko
Pecha Kucha http://vimeo.com/26635579