Pushing Forward

When I was studying Architecture I had to study math. Math was not my thing and I really struggled at it. One day a fellow female classmate of mine let me know she didn’t need to study for math anymore.

” Judy I don’t have to study for the test tomorrow, but thanks anyway.”

“Really? You already studied?”

She smiled.

“Oh, you had sex with him?”


So there it was. Two ways to become an Architect. Work your ass off or work your ass off. I was one of 8 women in this school, and some of them used sex to pass. I felt very sorry for her. I thought the teacher was garbage. One day he told me was going to pass me because I walked and talked with confidence. He said he believed I could be an architect. The irony is he passed me for reasons that had nothing to do with trigonometry. He passed me for my confidence. That would have never happened for the men in our class.

There was a design teacher who used to make all of the students cry. Men and women, it didn’t matter. He used to take his long nails and scratch our work, which was on tracing paper, and exclaim, “THIS is not architecture”. He told one man he should be a baker. This teacher gave me an F on my first project. He gave another guy an A. Then he gave me a D on my next project. But on the 3rd project I got an A and the other guy got a F.  The teacher explained why. He said because I had to fight for a good grade my work improve and changed exponentially. The guy with the A off the bat didn’t improve at all. It was quite a manipulation, but it worked.

If it wasn’t for my therapist, I would’ve quit architecture school my first year. It was really hard and humiliating at times. Tony, my therapist, gave me perspective. He helped me see that people like this exist everywhere. The trick is to plug away and don’t listen to the words that try to tear me down.

Years later I was designing a library for the city. I made the mens bathroom with pink tile and the woman’s bathroom with blue. I was trying to make a statement and my supervisor (who was a woman) approved it. When the contractor began building he said I made a mistake and reversed the colors. I was furious. I wanted them to change it. My supervisor understood, but said this was very expensive for the city. She said I should focus on continuing to work and do what I do. Basically, this fight wasn’t worth it. Looking back, I agree. I had a lot of good work to do in my future.

It’s interesting the people who pushed me through and how. As I look back nobody every really told me no. They just pushed me forward and I was a better architect for it. My mother never told me no either. Funny.

When you are on your path it’s not always easy, but I guess I can say that the signs are clear when its right. My husband Don used to quote an old Irish Blessing. I think it’s appropriate here:

May the road rise to meet youMay the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand

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