I live in a rural area: eastern Maine. It’s a bit odd carving out a life here, because my background is more suited to an urban existence. I grew up in a suburb of Connecticut; a lot of my friends had parents who worked in New York City. 80% of my high school class went to college, and 20% of them went to an Ivy League college. I went to a good college also. I had an interest in construction, and I worked as a construction laborer during summers in college. When I began to think what I wanted to do for a career, I was guided toward becoming an architect.
I notice a lot of very talented people in my area, who could be professionals, are not. I worked for a number of years with a carpenter who never went to school past high school. His name was David, and we met when we were both helping a mutual friend on a project. David was a great carpenter. But, he was more than that. I hired him to help on a house I had designed, and was building. I remember one day we were discussing construction details for a custom piece of cabinetry. Now, it’s very common for architects to talk to each other through a pencil. Architects will be working out a detail for something, and they will have a pencil and a piece of paper. One architect will draw something, and the other architect will ask for the pencil and continue the drawing. “Well, how about this over here?” “I’m thinking of this at this area.” The words are coming out at the same time as the sketches. It’s as if, in order to communicate what an architectural idea really is, it’s helpful to speak and draw at the same time. I do this with other architects. I rarely do this with other carpenters.
Except David. As we worked out the details for the cabinetry, David asked for my pencil. He drew something. I looked, and asked for the pencil. I drew something. We went back and forth several times. We figured it out.
I have told many people over the years that David was a better architect than I am. The only difference is I grew up in a place where becoming an architect- a professional- was run of the mill. David did not. He grew up in a place where doing manual labor is run of the mill. I am not demeaning manual labor. I love it. The problem is, as a way to make a living into your 60s, it’s not the best route. At some point you peak, and it’s probably in your 30s or early 40s. After that, the work is too hard on the body.
I got to where I am, which is a professional, largely through dint of having someone in my upbringing show me the path. There are a lot of kids out there who do not have someone who can show that path, to put it in front of them.