The New New

I am starting to believe that change is contagious. Perhaps it is a function that I have accepted that I cannot control everything. Maybe the almost ten years of parenting is getting to me. Or maybe when you surround yourself with change, your perspective shifts. I have been going through a lot of ‘big life decisions’ lately. In 2015, I lost some of my favorite people to cancer. I allowed myself to think beyond what others told me I could be. I starting calling things out for what they are —beautiful, unjust, simple, or over-complicated.

As my good friend Aisha said to me in the Fall, “you know, you’re just going through an immense period of growth.” She explained further that although it would be convenient for opportunities and challenges to come at us in a nice, even pace, we all know the world does not work that way. She was right, and at the time I was just beginning to embrace the ebb and flow of change.

As many of you know (or at least those of you who track these things), I left a position that I was at for 13 years in December. It was more than a job for me, it was my professional life. Walking away from my colleagues and clients was difficult because I had developed relationships. I cared about their well-being and their businesses. That is who I am.

Over time the more comfortable I became in my day-to-day roles and responsibilities, the less I took professional risks. It become too easy for me to define my goals as others saw me, rather than reaching for things I had yet to do. Architecture, like every other profession, struggles to keep long-term employees engaged throughout their careers. My tipping point was when I realized how much I had changed over the past 13 years. While I had gained skills and opportunities, my long-term priorities were beginning to shift.

If I could pass a note to my former self, I would scribble something about letting go of the fear of the unknown. I would tell myself to trust in my own courage. This morning I was listening to On Being with Krista Trippett’s show about W.E.B Du Bois & the American Soul, and there was a beautiful clip of Maya Angelou speaking of courage:

“I would encourage young men and women, black and white and Asian and Spanish-speaking and all, to look at Dr. Du Bois and realize that courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can’t be consistently fair or kind or generous or forgiving — any of those without courage.”

I realize that changefrom the making of new resolutions to the ‘big life decisions’all need courage in spirit and action:

  • Courage to believe in the importance of your voice.
  • Courage to accept the world as both a work in progress and a thing of beauty.
  • Courage to connect with others to learn and to grow.
  • Courage to be uncomfortable.
  • Courage to see change as an adventure and not a hazard.
  • Courage to change things up in big… and even bigger ways.

The funny thing is I haven’t made any resolutions this year. I am not sure it’s really necessary. 2016 has already been a year of the new, new in its short 11 days. I am looking forward to the next 355 with courageous eyes.

This post is part of Bob Borson’s #ArchiTalks series—a monthly challenge encouraging architects to write about a single topic. This month’s topic is “New Year, New _____” Please see links below to check out the views of others:

The participants of this ArchiTalks blog post series are asking you to help a friend of ours who is dealing with a family tragedy. Rusty Long is an Architect based out of Portsmouth, Virginia, whose son Matthew is fighting for his life. Here is Matthew’s story, as told by his Dad, Rusty:

Matthew Long was born May 29th, 2013, happy, and seemingly healthy. Less than two days later his mother and I found ourselves in an neonatal intensive care unit waiting room, listening to a rushed intensive care doctor explain how our son needed immediate dialysis to save his life. The disease, he briefly explained, was one of a group of disorders called Urea Cycle Disorders, which impact the way the body breaks down protein. We later discovered that Matthew’s particular variant is called OTC Deficiency, a particularly severe form of it in fact, which results in a rapid rise of ammonia in the blood, called hyperammonemia, resulting in devastating neurological damage. This form of OTC is so severe, Matthew has virtually no peers who have survived it. Once the immediate crisis was arrested, we came to find out more about the disease and the impact of this initial event.

The disease is inherited, and the damage is permanent. Treatment consists of a combination of medications, low protein medical diet, and ultimately a liver transplant. Matthew was fortunate to experience no additional hyperammonemic events in the following fifteen months of life, and had a liver transplant on August 24th, 2014. The cure for the disease, a transplant, isn’t so much a cure as trading one condition for another. While we will never risk the chance of another ammonia spike, Matthew is on a half a dozen or more medications at any given time to avoid rejection. Despite these challenges, intensive daily therapy for cerebral palsy (a result of the initial damage), limited motor function, and various other challenges along the way, our son is remarkably happy and has changed all our lives for the better. He’s taught us to be stronger than we ever thought possible, to have faith beyond human understanding, and the immeasurable value of life.

The #ArchiTalks community is hoping to raise $5,500 to help Architect Rusty Long and his family reach their financial goal on If each reader of this post contributes a small amount, our impact will be massive and we can make a difference for Matthew’s family. Click here now and donate $2.00.


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Emily is an Architect, Mother of 2, and Somerville, MA resident.

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