Summer is almost over and I haven’t been to the beach yet. I’ve been working 50 to 60 hours a week as an architect for three months now. Drawing through multiple buildings at once is insane, and I’m tired all the time. But I’m finally doing the work I dreamed of for the last 8 years of my career - designing buildings - and I love it.
After decompressing for a whole weekend in the Poconos, I arrived at the office Monday morning at 9:05 in a good mood. As I waited in line for my turn at the big fancy touch-screen espresso machine, I reflected on how much I was looking forward to my work week. There were several design presentations lined up that I had to prepare for. I felt important, I felt useful, I was excited.
As soon as I topped my double espresso with ice and almond milk, I took a sip and skipped back towards my desk. Hmm, why does this taste citrusy? Wait, no, its sour. The milk was spoiled. I ran back to the kitchen and threw the whole mug into the sink. The line of sleepy colleagues waiting for the espresso machine glared at me in confusion. I grabbed a mug of water, and made my way back to my desk, pretending that didn’t just happen.
It was now 9:15, and I had a bunch of design work to do before I met with my team. Wait, where are my notes? My sketches from last week’s client meeting with detailed adjustments for the penthouse layouts disappeared.
I dug through every nook and cranny of my company’s server. Nothing. I checked my recent files in Bluebeam, a PDF reader used to draw and add notes over architectural drawings. Nothing. My hand-written notes were useless. All I could find was a pixelated screenshot from the Zoom meeting.
Freaking out, I drew as fast as possible from memory. With a tight grip on the mouse, and flicking my wrist all around, I vigorously clicked away, deleting and re-drawing walls and doors as fast as I could. Was the wall supposed to be here…or here? Was this apartment supposed to lose a bedroom? Where was I supposed to add that third bathroom again?
It was suddenly 11:01. I lost track of time, was late for my team meeting, AND my bladder was about to erupt. As I pushed my wheely chair back to run to the restroom, I knocked my mug over. Water pooled all around my laptop. Shit!
I ran to grab paper towels, and when I came back I noticed my monitor was off. The puddle now surrounded my laptop’s dock where my monitor is plugged into. The monitor wouldn’t turn on, no matter how many times I pressed the power button.
So I signed onto the Zoom call with just my tiny laptop monitor. This was a problem because I had to do 4 things at once.
I frantically shoved my Zoom window into the top left corner of my screen, tucked my 3D modeling software into the top right corner, dragged held the pixelated remnant of my penthouse apartment sketch into the bottom left corner, and had my company chat window in the bottom right corner.
Everything was tiny. I couldn’t read or process anything on my laptop screen. This Zoom call lasted an hour before my bladder reminded me, again, that it was time to go. So I signed off and ran to the restroom mid-conversation with my boss.
My next Zoom call was with a product rep, showing me and a different boss a new design software. It’s designed to help us lay out apartments in buildings more efficiently. I was looking forward to learning about this new tool. I hoped it would help me streamline my workflow, to save a few hours of overtime a week that can go back to my painting or writing practice.
My current process of laying out apartments is VERY manual. It involves a lot of repetitive copy/pasting, and moving blocks of apartments in various sizes around in AutoCAD to see what fits on the floor. It’s lots of mouse clicking, lots of brain thinking. But if I use this new software instead, I just have to draw the building outline and tell it how many apartment units I need of each type (like studio, one or two-bedrooms). Then BOOM, it gives you a fully planned out apartment building.
But half-way through the meeting, my mind went from shock and awe to a slow existential dread, and I thought: This tool will automate my dream design job away.
My manager seemed excited about it, and when he asked what I thought, of course I responded, “Yes, this looks so cool I’m excited to try it out!”
After the call ended, I sulked my way to the elevator feeling defeated. Emerging from the arched stone lobby into the warm summer sunlight, I took a deep breath and made my way to the park across the street. I plopped myself down on a park bench, exhausted.
I called my husband. I was on the brink of tears when I told him about my morning. But when I told him about the new software that was going to automate my new design job away, I started to laugh. Then he laughed. We both just laughed at how absurd this Monday has been.
If a day like this happened in part one of my career, which is what I’m now calling my pre-sabbatical time, I would’ve let this all completely destroy my day, and week. I would’ve taken it all personally. I would’ve thought I was going to get fired for making stupid mistakes, like losing files and nearly destroying company equipment. And I would’ve felt like my career was over because I was about to be replaced with AI.
But now, in part-two of my post-sabbatical career, I just laughed it off. Everyone makes mistakes and has bad days. I’m human, not a machine. And to be honest, that software isn’t close to replacing me. It can’t even think in 3D. It doesn’t understand that buildings need vertical elements, like elevators and stairs. I will always conquer the floor plan bot.
After my chat with my husband ended, I went back to work completely unphased. I finished adjusting those penthouses, and presented them the next day. The client was happy and signed off on the new design.
Next time I have a bad day, I’ll remember this one, just laugh it off, and keep going.