November Letter

baby soph

I haven’t written in a while because I lost Sophie in early October. It’s been a rough two months. I’m still pretty sad when I think about it, but for the most part I have an upbeat attitude, and I don’t cry every day any more. I feel awkward explaining to non- dog people how much her death affected me: all I can say is that since I live alone, she was more than just a dog to me. I’ve read that this is a growing trend in the States. Man, I hate being trendy. Anyway, I will definitely find another dog as soon as I get back to Boston. If only I knew when that will be…

The big news of this month is that I got laid off. My project had stopped, there wasn’t another one for me to take over, and I’m too expensive to just draft. Don’t cry for me, though – when I heard, my first reaction was relief. I had planned to stick out the job until May because I didn’t want it to look bad on my resume, but I was pretty miserable. The potent combo of big-firm culture, poor management, and a less than supportive attitude toward female staff made me dread going to work. I made a lot of friends among the staff, but I wouldn’t extend that moniker to the directors. Friday was my last day, so I am now a lady of leisure.

So what to do next? There don’t seem to be any architecture jobs on offer in Edinburgh, and I doubt Boston is much better at the moment. Instead of scrabbling for non-existent bad jobs in cold climates, I’ve decided to do what I’ve secretly wanted to for years: disappear off the radar for a while somewhere very cheap. My plan is to go to India in January for some length of time (anywhere from 3-8 months depending on how I like it), then make my way to Thailand or Cambodia and get a job teaching English before the money runs out. I started the process for the Indian visa this morning, although it wouldn’t surprise me if they rejected my application based on the premise that I am actually dead after looking at the photo I enclosed. I am also trying to re-rent the room I’m living in, arrange to get all my inoculations, and get rid of as much stuff as possible before storing the rest in my mom’s hall cupboard. My goal is take a half-full suitcase with me to India and buy most of what I need there.

I’ll be travelling a bit before I go to India. Going to Frankfurt to visit cousins for Christmas, then Portugal with the South African boy for New Year (yes, he’s still around). I didn’t want to completely miss Christmas, but I’m feeling miserly about it, since that trip will cost as much as the plane ticket to Mumbai plus probably a few weeks of accommodation in India. I’m wracking my brain about how to make a little money here during December. I’d like to get a job in a coffee shop or the like just to get out of the house and not be tempted to spend cash on anything. Scotland is so expensive.

What about architecture? My hope is that most employers will understand a sabbatical – especially one taken in such dire economic circumstances. I’ve been thinking hard about what I’d like to do next. When the work is interesting and I have some measure of autonomy, I love my job. Even at _____ in October I worked on a project where I was basically given parts of a building to “do”, and the leaders appreciated everything I did. Too bad I was transferred to the Gazprom complex the next month… At ______ I was extremely happy for the two years I did construction administration because I was learning the whole time and made most of the decisions myself. If I could find another situation like that within a firm, it would be great, but what I get from my architect contacts is that most people in the business are frustrated with their jobs because they have little control. I don’t know if this is particularly an architect thing, or whether it’s a generational thing. Any thoughts? I never dreamt of opening my own firm – always thought it would be too much of a hassle, and I don’t have delusions of my name in lights – but I find these days that I think more and more about it for the simple pleasure of being my own boss. This is an ongoing debate in my head. I’m hoping that some real time off will give me clarity.

I’ll admit that I’m not sorry to be leaving Scotland. It’s been interesting, and I have no regrets about coming here (apart from thinking that Soph might still be alive, but life doesn’t work that way), but I also don’t feel the need to stay longer. It’s cold, people drink far too much, and there’s an odd sense of inferiority / fatalism inherent to Scottish culture. And I accomplished the goals of getting to know my family here better and of pushing my comfort zone in terms of striking out on my own. India is going to be a whole new kettle of fish when it comes to that one! I am afraid of being lonely and homesick on the road, but I’ll deal with that when I come to it.

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1 comment
  1. Tina said:

    Hi Mirren, I think most people do not have control over their work. I think that’s why working for yourself can be so appealing. I started my own business when I was pregnant with Lily. I guess I was feeling creative. I really like it and would love to have more business someday (I guess that would be my 5-year plan). In the meantime I treat it more like a hobby since I don’t need the money, but like the extra money. I think if you can start your own firm that will be fabulous. But you might end up doing things you really don’t like to do. For me it’s marketing, although I am slowly starting to like networking.

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