I got my results back for my Masters on Monday. The great news is that I can now say that I am a Master of Architecture (Professional), fully qualified to go and learn how to be an architect (wait, didn’t I already do that? Haha, nope. Three more years of professional work, dude. THREE MORE YEARS). The other great news is now I can stop worrying about failing, because I didn’t fail, I passed! The bad news is that I didn’t get the grade that I was hoping for, and the really bad news is that I did not handle it well.
In life, everyone has setbacks. Nobody is successful constantly. Failures and setbacks are what builds success, everyone knows that. Try telling that to me on Monday, crying on the floor, wishing I could go back and repeat my thesis year, so angry at the universe for crushing my hopes and dreams. Last year was the first year of my studies that I felt confident and excited within for the duration of a project. It was the first year I was genuinely passionate about my work, the first year I was proud of my design work. My supervisors were excited by my research, external academics at critiques and presentations even more so. So many amazing things happened in my life last year due to the strength of my research. And then the critics determined that my research was, in fact, just “good” and not “excellent”. I felt like the world was caving in.
The thing is, I didn’t actually do that badly, I got a fairly decent grade. So, why the tears, why the drama?
I actually don’t think I would care so much about my grade if I was in a steady job working towards becoming an architect. I would probably be a little disappointed, as all architecture students feel when they don’t get an A+, but I’d be fine. The problem I have is that last year, hyped up on the great feedback on my research and the confidence I had in my own abilities, I decided I wanted to conduct further research and become a PhD candidate, in order to become a professor. Dr. Anneke, future crazy professor lady with a cardboard house and at least three published books, inspiring future architects to be something other than the norm.
And with a great grade that dream would be so much closer to becoming a reality, because applying for scholarships would be somewhat achievable. Now, they are not even within my reach.
That is why I cried, heartbroken and angry with the universe. Because the easy route towards my dream was suddenly taken away from me. I’m not smart enough to do well in my Masters, even though I tried so damn hard, so how can I be smart enough to complete a PhD? How the hell am I going to get anyone in academia to believe in me when I am not at the top of my class?
Last week was a week of grieving, as strange as it sounds. I cried everyday. I’ve been trying to figure out what I need to do to make my dream a reality again, through different avenues, but it’s so hard when you’re still so raw with emotion.
I am so angry with the system, that I had so many people encouraging and guiding my research only to let it fall flat. I’m so angry that I was led to believe that I could do excellently, in official reviews and presentations, but I only did OK in the final stage. I’m angry that people believed in me and my abilities, pushing me to be different, when what architecture really wants is pretty renders and standard practice techniques. If I had practiced the norm would I have done better?
But then, if I had done the norm I would not be happy with my work. I have always been different at architecture school. I’m that weird art kid who challenges what people perceive architecture as. In architecture we celebrate pioneers. We love the outlandish, the people who create work that is different and new and exciting. Yet, we still want the majority to be normal, everyday, boxy, minimalist designers. Analytical thinkers with a knack for functional design. Those architects are amazing and intelligent and I respect everything they do, but I am just not one of them. I’m more a Gehry than I am a Mies.
My work was more artistic than it was architectural. I put a lot of myself, as a maker, into everything I created. Each piece of work was crafted based on my own interpretations and feelings, emotions were carved into those cardboard constructions. Perhaps that’s another reason why I have taken this so hard. It feels like an attack on myself, rather than an attack on my architecture.
I have learnt this week that I am not a tough person. I am passionate, driven and hard-working, I am creative, curious and excited, but I am sensitive to the core. I have also learnt that in a situation like this, it’s OK to be sad, but not forever. Wallow for a little while, create an action plan for success thereafter. I know that I am going to do work in my future that will shock, anger and cause controversy, I know that I am going to create work that will be loved and appreciated and will inspire. I need to build strength to handle that. I don’t even know what form that work will take just yet. Never fear, I have a lifetime ahead of me.
So, while I await the inevitable “no” from the University of Melbourne, I am going to set my mind towards bettering myself and my career. I am going to be an excellent tutor (hilariously, in a paper teaching students about research). I am going to research, write and design within this field that I am so passionate about. I am going to seek new avenues in order to make my dream a reality. Maybe I’ll become an architect and detour for a while. One thing is for certain, I am never, no matter how much critique I receive, going to change the way I design and create – because it is the core of who I am and who I will become. Weird is bankable, Google it.
PS Thank you to Thom, Emma, Nat, James and Jackie for being the most amazing baes in the universe and getting me through this week. Thank you also to my family for feeding me, looking after me and for having hugs on tap. Love you guys, I’ll make you proud!