Always On The Wrong Side Of The Fence
I didn't know where this post was going when I started it. Actually I thought I would probably make the case against being on the wrong side of any boundary - and all the disadvantages that it entails. Some examples.
I have spent my entire life living in the ’Greater Cincinnati’ area...but just across the Ohio River in Kentucky. I actually live closer to Fountain Square, ground zero of downtown Cincinnati, than 90% of Cincinnati's residents. Not actually belonging to the major city always seemed like a ’disability’.
“Where do you live?”
The message was, “Oh, how sad for you.”
Years later, at AIA Kentucky meetings or conventions, when meeting an architectural colleague from Lexington or Louisville, the “Where do you live” exchange ended the same way. Now the unstated message was, “Oh, then you’re not really one of us.”
Education was another boundary-maker. I went to a Jesuit prep school instead of the diocesan high school. I went to Notre Dame instead of either UC (Cincinnati) or UK (Kentucky). These decisions were considered proof that I was too good for the normal choices, and so I didn't fit in. The reality was much more mundane. My best friends in grade school all went to the Jesuit school, so chalk that up to peer pressure. For college I wanted to go to UC. In fact I only applied to UC. Turned down. Baby Boom overload. All the slots were taken by Cincinnatians. My Dad got to live his dream through me. I still don't know how he got me into Notre Dame without applying.
I joined ROTC in an attempt to stay out of Vietnam. My takeaway was that the Civil War was far from over. At boot camp, which was held at Fort Knox for the whole country, every cadet living south of the Mason-Dixon Line wanted to claim me for the Confederacy. I had to gloss over the fact that my home town was named Fort Wright after the Union general in charge of the Civil War fortifications. Very likely my ancestors would have been shooting Rebs if they had immigrated sooner.
Even my personality was a barrier. If only I was an extrovert like my brother, who has attended more weddings of the children of friends than I have friends. It would be so much easier to meet people, get work, stay busy, make money.
All of these perceived ’disabilities’ were meaningless. (And sound pretty petty now that I write them down.) None of them changed the course of my life. In fact they were much more benign than what most people encounter. Basically they amount to a giant case of the “grass is always greener” syndrome. If anything, I learned to ignore the bullshit and stick to the plan, whatever ’the plan’ was at the time.
So the cliche that I am trying to reinforce is this: your external circumstances play a minor role in achieving your goals - it's the internal stuff that matters most. 'One foot in front of the other' is the only dependable way to get where you want to go.
Set a big goal. Think up an easy baby-step that moves you in the right direction. Work on that one step. Then another and another. Look back periodically to see if you have made any progress. You will have.
Photo Credit: I'm sorry
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