I basically went to Hogwarts.
Ok, maybe an exaggeration. Each year in the city I grew up in, 30 grade four kids on either side of the river got a magical invitation to attend a program for “academically talented” students for grades five through eight. The program is basically a combination of an MBA and a think tank for 11-year-olds (*who are all, understandably, extra socially awkward but also each uniquely marvelous).
One peculiarity of the program is that you have the same teacher for grades five and six, then the same teacher for grades seven and eight. It helps the class mesh.
Well, imagine everyone’s surprise and sorrow when our BELOVED grade seven teacher announced to us near the end of the year that he would not be returning for grade eight. We were fragile pre-teens – we couldn’t handle the shock! Oh, there were ugly tears. Open-mouthed, braces-gleaming, full-on sobbing. Like I said: we were all special, delicate flowers.
Despite our initial sadness, what followed were a couple weeks of wonderful class discussions about life with our departing Captain. One such conversation led to us asking our teacher what career path he predicted for each of us. As I recall, I – keener that I have always been – initiated this conversation, hoping that he would see into the future and know what incredible job surely awaited me.
“I bet you’ll be an architect,” he said. “You like things to be so precise and accurate.”
I recall feeling abject horror. I mean, I already loved architecture… but this moment is burned into my mind. An ARCHITECT? I’m NOT an architect!
Why the horror?! I adore architecture! And I do enjoy a good straight edge and an expensive mechanical pencil… But being an architect just didn’t resonate with me; I had no interest in the doing of it. I assumed everyone knew I would do amazing things with my words and thoughts in politics or business, or I would make beautiful art as a performer, or I would become a great scholar of history or literature. I can conjure up the feeling of hearing my teacher say “architect” and feeling my stomach drop. Perhaps I was so disappointed that my perception of myself was not what someone important to me perceived about me.
However, my friends, I’ve begun to see myself as an architect after all. It all started with what became my favourite morning affirmation:
I am the architect of my life: I build its foundation and I choose its contents.
I say this to myself several times most mornings because I find it enormously empowering. More and more, I come to realize that I literally design and build my own life experience. I make sure the essentials work – my life probably won't fall off a cliff or collapse under its own weight – but I also try to draw from inspiration, innovate, and build something unique and substantial.
Designing and building an exceptional life really is like being an architect. It takes precision. It takes wisdom to draw on what has come before, but it also takes fearlessness to do what hasn't yet been done. Perhaps more than anything, it takes commitment to personal vision. It starts with a concept, then it takes technical tools and real solutions to make it happen.
So, despite my original resistance, now I dream I am an architect, though I build not in brick and stone, but in light and life.