First Blog Entry: A Brief History of Me

(Edit: This was my first official blog entry, originally posted on MySpace. Any entries other than this, such as many of the photo galleries, were originally posted elsewhere before being imported here.)

Now that I’ve joined the MySpace bandwagon and rediscovered some long-lost friends, I thought I’d post a quick rundown of what I’ve been up to all these years…. And I may as well start at the beginning:

March 1975: Born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Lived across the river in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, and attended Samuel Woodfill Elementary School.

November 1984: Moved to Asheville, North Carolina. Attended Claxton Elementary School and Hill Street Middle School.

February 1987: Moved to Jacksonville, Florida. Attended Pine Forest Elementary School and Matthew Gilbert Middle School.

June 1988: Moved to Beaufort, South Carolina. Attended Robert Smalls Middle School and Battery Creek High School.

Have some of you guessed that I was a military brat? Talk about a fucked-up way to go through childhood.

This is the point in the story where some of you MySpace friends come onto the scene….

February 1991: Moved back to Jacksonville in the middle of my sophomore year. Attended Samuel Wolfson High School, and soon fell in with an eccentric group of students who would become known as the Whigs. I didn’t know it at the time, but some of these Whigs would become lifelong friends.

Summer 1993: Graduated from Wolfson, said goodbye to the Whigs, and moved with my family to the outskirts of Chicago. My plan was to attend architecture school at the University of Cincinnati, but I decided to wait a year in order to save up some money and knock out some general education classes at the local community college. I got a job working at a Target store in Gurnee, Illinois and later at a Circuit City in Vernon Hills. Not a particularly fun time for me. Cincinnati didn’t work out, and I stuck around for another year as I gradually began to adopt Chicago as my new hometown.

September 1995: Began classes for a Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies (the first step on the road to becoming an architect) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Also began working as an intern for Perkins + Will, a large and well-respected architecture firm in Chicago. This was my big break into the profession. Unfortunately, balancing work and school took a heavy toll on me mentally, physically, and financially over the next few years. I switched to a part-time course load, and eventually decided to take a semester off.

Around this time I became active with the Fourthcomers group at Fourth Presbyterian Church, picking up a few more lifelong friends in the process.

This is where the ride gets bumpy.

November 1999: One semester off became a year off, and, well… things started getting ugly. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was pretty deep in the throes of clinical depression. I officially withdrew from UIC, and started making plans to finish my degree elsewhere. I left Perkins + Will around the same time, and began a series of crappy temp jobs at various firms.

June 2000: I moved to Boston with the idea that I would transfer to the Boston Architectural Center, which has a program that allows students to work full-time in architecture offices during the day and take classes in the evenings. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I only got as far as orientation before my housing arrangements collapsed at the last moment. By Labor Day weekend I was facing the real possibility of homelessness, which was a huge wake-up call to me. It was around this time that I finally turned the political corner from being an angry conservative into being an angry liberal.

September 2000: I ended up moving back to Chicago on short notice, and stayed with some friends until I could get back on my feet. I ended up working for a couple of highly-dysfunctional architecture firms in the city. Finishing my degree was on the back burner for now.

March 2001: Despite what I was going through, I managed to spend a week in London, my first trip outside the US, and somewhat of a pilgrimmage to my family’s ancestral lands. What an incredible experience.

September 2002: I left Chicago once again, this time for Philadelphia. I had been accepted as a transfer student at Drexel University, and had landed a promising job at a firm in southern New Jersey. Over the next few months I was making good grades at school, and for the first time in my career, I was in charge of designing a real building from the ground up. I had also become active in the Episcopal Church, and fell in with a group of Canterbury Club members who would become close friends. I also bought a decent car for the first time, and moved out of temporary quarters into a nice apartment in Philly. Things were finally looking good… Until the floor collapsed out from under me.

March 2003: Precipitated by the sudden meltdown of a relationship, depression reared its ugly head again, in a big way. My house of cards began collapsing all around me. Over the next few months I had quit school again, lost my job, had my car repossessed, and was in real danger of losing my apartment as well. Once again I felt like I was on a downward spiral. I remained unemployed for the next 11 months. The silver lining in all this, though, is that I was finally forced to seek treatment for my depression. While there’s no cure and I’ll probably have to deal with it for the rest of my life, at least I began to gain some degree of control over it, and things have been much better for me since then.

February 2004: With my unemployment benefits about to expire and with no job prospects in Philly, I moved up the road to New York City in search of greener pastures. I found myself living in a shithole of an apartment in Brooklyn, and later an even worse shithole of an apartment in Manhattan while working for a couple firms in Midtown. One bright spot in my life, though, was my involvement in various activities at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which soon became (and remains today) the center of my spiritual life. A few more close friendships made here.

November 2004: Despite my involvement at the cathedral, life in the pressure cooker of NYC was taking its toll on me, and I was once again feeling the itch to finish my degree. After losing my second job in NYC, I used my severance check to buy a Jeep Cherokee, packed everything I could fit into it (and threw away anything that didn’t fit), and moved to Eugene, Oregon. My idea was to eventually transfer to the University of Oregon, but what I really needed was some time in the wilderness to get my shit together. Although NYC wasn’t right for me at the time, I still see myself returning there someday.

March 2005: After three months of exploring the Oregon Cascades and doing some serious soul-searching, I decided that I still had a lot of unfinished business back in Chicago. It was time to stop running from my problems and get my life back on track. As luck would have it, a good freelance opportunity with an old friend in Chicago arose, and I soon found myself back home and beginning the process of rebuilding my life. That summer, I began working for an architecture firm in the River East area.

March 2006: I began classes at DePaul University’s School for New Learning, a flexible program for adult students to earn their BA degrees on a part-time basis. So far I’ve been happy with the program, and I’ve been getting excellent grades. In the meantime, I began the long and painful process of paying off the mountain of debt I had managed to accumulate over the past few years.

October 2006 and Beyond: After about a year-and-a-half back in Chicago, I seem to have reached some degree of stability in my life. I’ve been working at the same firm for over a year now (longer than I’ve held down any job since leaving Perkins + Will), while it’s an incredibly dysfunctional firm that comes with a great deal of stress and frustration, it’s also been a good learning experience and I have a good chemistry with most of my co-workers. If nothing else, it’s at least given me some much-needed financial stability while I pay off my debt and finish my BA degree.

If all goes well, I’m hoping to have completed my BA this spring or summer. After that, the plan is to start grad school for my Masters of Architecture degree, which I need to obtain in order to become a registered architect.

Do I have any regrets? Of course I do… Over the past ten years I’ve made some stupid choices, burned more than a few bridges, and have had some pretty fucked-up attitudes about many things in life. But part of growing up means learning from your mistakes, and I like to think I’ve learned a lot. No doubt I will continue to make more mistakes and bad decisions in future years (including a few of the ones that seem to be a recurring pattern), but when all is said and done, I really wouldn’t change a thing about any of the above.

Now that I’m in my 30’s, I’m feeling the itch to settle down and sink some roots, rebuild a few of those burned bridges, and restore some lost friendships. This foray into MySpace is part of that effort.

What does the future hold? Hard to say at this point, but chances are I’ll be leaving Chicago again next fall for grad school, since neither of the architecture programs in town excite me all that much. The only question is to where. I’m planning to apply to Cornell, UPenn, Harvard, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Oregon. Where I actually end up going is anybody’s guess, but right now I’d consider Cornell my top choice.

My long-term plan is to eventually start my own architecture firm, and right now New York City is the place I most likely see myself doing that. But then, the one major lesson I’ve learned from all the above is that the quickest way to make God laugh is to tell him your plans.

In the meantime, feel free to come along for the ride….

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