Success is an interesting thing — sometimes someone else’s success actually can be more important to you than your own. Maybe it’s because you understand the process, the steps that needed to be taken. Maybe it’s because you were too close to your own achievement to fully appreciate what went into it. Either way, seeing someone else take that leap can be just as exhilarating. On the rare occasion when one can say that they might have had a small part to play in that, the feeling is very difficult to put into words.
Over ten years ago, I was asked to be a mentor for a high school student, one who just happened to be writing a paper on architecture. It was part of her senior project, and she had to choose a topic that was based on her intended major of study. I was more than happy to help… and this being the first time I was asked to mentor someone, I took it very seriously. Maybe a little too seriously — I returned her first draft to her literally dripping with red ink. I tried justifying it by telling her — and myself — that I was preparing her for what was yet to come, but it might’ve been a little too much for a high school student to take. Luckily she didn’t create a voodoo doll that looked suspiciously like me… or if she did, as an intern trying to painfully work his way through IDP, I didn’t notice.
She and I stayed in touch through her five years of college; eventually, the time came when she was looking for a job, and landed her first architectural position with the office that I was working for. I actually had the opportunity to become a true mentor to her, especially when she was placed on one of my projects. Of course, that meant a little more red ink — on her details this time — but I think (hope?) that by this point in her career, she at least had a better understanding of where I was coming from.
We lost touch a little when I left the firm. The last time I saw her, at a pre-proposal meeting for a project we were both chasing, she told me that her goal was to finish her exams before her birthday. Her most recent score reports being fairly regular, she even had scheduled her last division of the ARE so that she would receive her pass letter on her actual birthday itself — a bit of advanced planning (and ambition) that would make even the most anal-retentive architect (particularly this one) beam with admiration.
Today is her birthday… and yesterday, I received the wonderful news that she has earned her architectural license. The fact that I celebrate the licensure of newly-minted architects is no small secret, but this one is more important to me than any other. Even though I knew that this day was coming, I have been completely bowled over by the amount of pride that I feel. (And to anyone who might think that the only party that benefits from mentorship is the younger one, you’re doing something wrong.)
Happy birthday, kid, and congratulations on taking the leap. It’s been a pleasure to have been a part of your journey. Now, hand over that voodoo doll…