This summer I took a class at work. For those of you who may not know, Evergreen doesn’t have grades. Instead, students get a narrative evaluation from their faculty and write a self-evaluation of their own work. Rather than write a separate blog post about my experience, I thought I’d just share my self-evaluation here, because it says basically everything I’d want to say.
I signed up for this program with the hopes of gaining skills that would help in my somewhat stalled process of remodeling my house. What happened instead was a rediscovery of things I’ve loved, and overcoming a life-long fear.
This class challenged me to explore drawing, which is something I’ve always felt I couldn’t do. I decided to take the challenge of 10 drawings a week really seriously, and while I didn’t always make it, I feel proud of having stuck to that practice. It reminds me of the times I’ve been writing regularly, and like the times when that’s been for a writing class or group, having specific assignments and goals gave me something to work towards and learn better. I feel less hesitant with a pencil in my hand, more forgiving when my attempts at portraying a plate or a chair look out of whack, and I’m getting enjoyment out of the process. Plus I SEE more. I’m looking more knowledgeably at the buildings around me, and with some prompting from my coworker, even getting a little more out of my (coincidental) new-found enthusiasm for Ms Marvel comics.
Designing things that are conceptual but grounded in real places has been liberating. I’ve gotten to use my experience with usability testing and user experience design in thinking about the built environment. I’ve been able to bring in my background of working on my house, working with my neighborhood association and the city’s bicycle & pedestrian committee, and what I learned from watching my husband go through his Urban Studies program at UWT, but whenever I felt too hemmed in by what I knew was “practical”, I got inspired by my classmates. Some of their ideas seemed absurd and totally impossible to me, and I had to remind myself that this is a time to learn. And in learning, to be experimental, fantastical, and to worry less about “design review” and cost. I feel more balanced and confident about my design ideas as well as my drawing.
As I worked on projects, I realized how much architecture has been an interest of mine, and my enthusiasm has really been rekindled: watching This Old House as a child, being a docent at the Gamble House in junior high, reading How Buildings Learn and A Pattern Language as a twenty-something. I feel some pangs of sadness thinking of how my fear of drawing and disdain for math kept me away from a subject I cared about. I’m not considering a career change, but I definitely want to keep the spark of enthusiasm alive and figure out how to use it more effectively in my life.
The one place where I consistently struggled was in time management. I feel like I should have learned this last year (“Writers’ Paradise”), but it’s hard for me to remember how much of being in school has to be done outside of class time! While it was easy for me to sketch and to think about my projects in my free time, every project found me cramming in presentation materials at the very last minute. Which meant that there were aspects that didn’t get as much attention as I would’ve liked. My lettering was always too small, and I gave short shrift to some design features that I’d thought I would include. It’s a good reminder to me to plan my time better for all of my interests outside of work.
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to participate in the program, to learn new things, and to be around the students who my day-to-day work serves.