I like free stuff. For example, I have several free magazine
subscriptions. Anyone who has a credit card is probably
familiar with the process. The credit card company sends you
a selection of free magazine subscriptions because, they say,
you are a valued customer. It is a simple process and so far
I have never had a problem with it. When the free
subscription expires, I call the credit card company and
discontinue the magazine so that I do not get billed for
received a deal in the mail for one free issue of
Architectural Digest. Maybe you got one, too.
Architectural Digest offered only one free issue.
Most magazine publishers give you six months or one year.
Anyway, I appreciate anything for free and one issue is better
than nothing. To their credit, they quickly sent me the July
issue of Architectural Digest, "The
International Magazine of Interior Design."
When I was a
young girl I wanted to be an architect. I had some artistic
talent, and designing buildings seemed like a practical way
to combine talent with making a living. In those days, girls
did not have many employment options. Girls who went on to
college could choose basically between nursing and teaching.
Girls who ended their education after high school could work
in offices, factories, restaurants and shops. Getting married
would often mean dropping out of college. And, getting
married after college would often meet with the mantra:
what a waste! The translation of the mantra was: what
a waste of her parents' money on all that education because
now she will only become a housewife.
I suppose I was
a little naive in my career choice, but at least I had a dream
for my future. The high school I attended offered three
preparatory courses for learning about architecture, beginning
in the 10th grade: Mechanical Drawing, Technical Drawing, and
Architectural Drawing. In the 10th grade I enthusiastically
enrolled in Mechanical Drawing.
I was the only
girl in the class. I felt that the teacher treated me as
though I was not a legitimate student. He never made eye
contact with me. He never spoke to me while he reviewed my
drawings. At the time, I believed that he did not want me in
the class, and therefore he blocked me out of sight and out of
mind. Looking back, perhaps he just did not know what to do
with a female student. Perhaps it was a new experience for
him, too. The male students also had various reactions to me,
none of which involved treating me seriously as an equal. I
also had my own reaction to them: most seemed to be going into
architecture for the money and not for the love of designing
buildings and homes. Some of them really wanted to become
doctors (for the money), but they were not doing well in their
biology and chemistry classes.
That class was
not a good experience and I did not enroll in Technical
Drawing in the 11th grade. I lost my dream of becoming an
architect. Since the 5th grade, that was what I had wanted to
do. Looking back, and judging by today's standards, it might
be easy to say that I should have pursued my career choice
despite the difficulties. But I was young and living in an
era of very different expectations for women.
There are two
avenues of thought that my free copy of Architectural
Digest inspired: (1) that some of our patients come to us
to resolve their lost dreams and broken hearts, and (2) that
social work and architecture have something in common.
things in numerical order. Sometimes I have encountered
patients who are pretty high functioning. Perhaps there was
no sexual abuse or other devastation. Perhaps they had some
emotional and personality strengths (and opportunities) which
enabled them to become achievers. Nevertheless, they also had
some unresolved disappointments in life. Life took some
unexpected turns. Perhaps they did not get into the college
they had their heart set on, or their true love married someone
else, or they lost a good job or had to relocate to another
city, or they had more than their share of accidents or
higher-level complaints, but nonetheless worthy of resolution
and healing. Early disappointment in my life seemed to leave
me in shock. I was always looking back in nostalgia while
stepping forward with self-doubt. I used to second-guess
myself a lot. Let me clarify that lost dreams are different
from personal failure. Lost dreams occur as a result of
unforeseen obstacles. Life is unfair. No matter what
generation we come from, we might have to cope with certain
alterations in our ambitions and plans.
are struggling to move beyond their survival level, or toward
different areas of achievement. They desire a life with
meaning and purpose. They want more than money. Therapy can
help them utilize their emotional strengths and reach for true
adulthood. Becoming a mature adult is no easy task. Perhaps
that is the real value of encountering obstacles: it can help
us grow in resourcefulness and creativity. Obstacles can be
moved around to our advantage, motivating us to explore other
areas of development that we would not have considered
When I was in
the 5th grade, I wanted to do what adults do. Kids imitate
adults for better or worse: I already knew how to read
blueprints. When I was in the 10th grade, I was behaving at
an age-appropriate level. I was preparing for high school
graduation and my future. When I decided not to pursue
Technical Drawing in the 11th grade, I was probably reacting
with a combination of influences: my own emotional
vulnerability and immature problem-solving skills combined
with the social standards of the time. Perhaps another young
lady with more stamina would have gone on to pioneer social
change and become an architect. I eventually became a social
worker, and I am none the worse for it.
If I may claim
a personal victory, however, I never lost my love of design
and decoration. I lost a potential career, but not the
essence of my self. That brings me to the realization that
architecture and social work have something in common. Both
are concerned with the environment we live in. One of the
original concepts that social work contributed to the study of
human behavior is that the environment can have an impact on
and interior decorating involve both practicality and beauty.
Sensitivity to the client's lifestyle and the natural
surrounding is essential. The goal is to make the client
comfortable while maintaining the integrity of good design
elements. In short, it is a way to improve and protect life.
Social workers do the same thing, but with different working
Now, back to reading my free copy of Architectural
Digest. Thanks for listening.
(Written 08/11/03 - Revised 12/01/03: bibliography available.)
Until we meet