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Do What You Love.

There is a big question that looms large almost as soon as we are able to form our first words. It follows close behind us, breathing down our neck, as we grow and form our own thoughts, waiting intently for THE answer. “What are you going to be when you grow up?” We all have been there and know the question is an extremely hard one to answer. There seems to be finality to it once we have figured it out. Sometimes it’s never figured out. And even when we say the answer, everyone always follows up with their opinion. Sometimes, even if we think we know, the answer changes based on a new experience, a new day, a new idea.

For me the choice eventually ended up between two noteworthy professions….Pharmacy or Architecture. And you’re thinking, “Really?” How strange, two careers so diametrically opposed to one another that you wonder how I could have come up with both of them. Well…here goes. In high school, I loved art but wasn’t necessarily the artistic type, excelling in Science, Math and English at the same time.  Even as an 11th grader I was a good problem solver and speaker, a global thinker, and I was by no means afraid of big ideas. In my drafting class, my soft spoken, bespeckled instructor looked down at my drawings and then looked up at me….”Silvia, you do a really nice work, have you thought of becoming an architect?”

It only takes a one single match to start a blazing fire and this question was like a match for me, it was all it took to get the romantic notion of becoming an architect in my head and then it refused to leave. At the same time as these inspired thoughts were brewing, I had a part time job as pharmacy technician, saving dollars to put gas my Mustang and my college account at the same time. I think back to days standing in the pharmacy, white plastic shelves filled with neatly stacked and organized bottles, counting out little pills and securing them under child proof lids so they wouldn’t escape, placing them in white paper bags, neatly stacked in baskets, alphabetically, waiting for customers to pick them up. The pharmacist sat on a stool, hunched over, bored, reading a magazine, getting up on occasion to check my work or to answer the same questions from customers over and over and over again “What’s good for runny nose?” ,“ I have this rash on my arm” “Can you tell me where the Ace bandages are?”

When I started that pharmacy job, people were so impressed and they automatically assumed that I would become a pharmacist. It seemed the smart thing to do…But when I objected and expressed my interest in architecture I was on the receiving end of puzzled looks followed by a repeated chorus telling me that it wasn’t such a good idea for many reasons.”We are in a recession, you will never get a job”, “That’s not really a job for a girl, maybe you should be a teacher instead”, “Architects are a dime a dozen…, why would you want to be an architect?”,  “Pharmacy is much better, better pay, flexible hours, job security, plus when you have kids you can work part time.” All of these things seemed very logical and I was a logical girl. It all made perfect and practical sense, becoming a pharmacist, but then why were my head and heart in such conflict? My head fought for what was practical and my heart for what it really loved.

Never one to just do what I was told or take the easy way out, I started architecture school (a little afraid that I might fail and “they” would be right) But I figured that I would give it all I had and still keep my job at the pharmacy just in case the architecture thing didn’t work out. Then I had my first architecture studio and the battle ended quietly. It was over, and there was no question that the stool I was meant to sit on was not a pharmacy stool, but a drafting stool.  Every day in architecture school, the world began to open up and unfold before me in ways I could never have imagined. I was on the right path, regardless of what the future would actually hold.

Today I am an architect, first and foremost.   Not only am I an architect, I’m a partner in a firm that I am genuinely proud to be part of. I design environments that make peoples lives better, surrounded every day by people who feel just like me; passionate, compelled, engaged, happy. I can’t and don’t want to imagine my life in any other way than exactly how it is today. I am so grateful for that and especially to my parents for never dissuading me from persuing what I loved and to my drafting teacher who inspired me with his simple question. We all have the potential to make a tremendous impact on people by even the smallest action

Almost 25 years later, when I see a pharmacist standing on a raised platform, surrounded by little bottles; counting, counting, watching the clock, looking bored in a white lab coat, I breathe a tremendous and satisfying sigh of relief.

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