It doesn’t matter. The plans, the schedules, the directives. In the end, there is always a rush to a deadline.
Last week was a doozy. By Wednesday night I had completed my forty hours. A late night to start the week, a later one in the middle, I found myself dreaming of sleep, the morning just beginning. All to get things done, meet goals that were overly-ambitious to start with.
In school, ambition paid certain dividends, though the measure of them required a certain subjectivity. After all, normal standards for success would never reconcile why you had just spent a sleepless week, working your ass off in order to barely pass. So you tell yourself you’ve learned things, accomplished things that were personally important, significant to your own growth, evaluations be damned. Ambition often got you in over your head, but it also often got you noticed. So, you might say, the worked paid off.
But, the same is rather more difficult in a professional setting. At least as an underling, as my case may be. Because, as an underling, you don’t answer to personal ambitions, you must submit yourself to the ambitions of those above you. And your work is their pay off.
I have yet to meet an architect that doesn’t have some small tendency towards perfectionism. It does make sense; without the attention to detail, the insatiable need to have things done a specific way, some serious mistakes would be made. And mistakes in our profession can have some disastrous consequences. Case study after case study provides proof. So does lawsuit after lawsuit.
The problem with perfectionism is that it often supersedes a rational understanding of time. Suddenly, the mind believes that, yes, those several additional drawings can be finished, as well as the new revisions to the plan, which will ultimately change the sections, the elevations, and every other drawing you might possibly wish to present. Oh, those colors, well, they aren’t right. Not the first time, not the second. But close on the third.
And that’s where I found myself that late night, trying to figure out if the shading in my latest printout was close enough to the real swatch that I held in my hand. It would have been easier had our plotter been calibrated as well as our color printer. But, since that wasn’t the case, it became a guessing game of hue and saturation, my eyes tearing up as their stared at the tiny pixels facing me.
I reached acceptable color matches somewhere near delirium, but at least not so late as to pull a dreaded all-nighter. I might have been a bit more disgruntled, as I packed up my things and tiredly made my way out the door. But, I knew, behind me, my studio managers still carried on, the end to their night not even close in sight. Because, for them, ambition was still fueling them along, still telling them that there was time – time for decisions, contemplation, revisions, and new ideas.