An open letter to myself at the beginning of the ARE journey

In this post I reflect on my trajectory from the early days of my ARE journey. It's been a ride. No matter how far along you are, I would encourage you to think about how much progress you've made and write a letter to your former self. It will be time well spent. In the letter below I describe mostly the highlights, hoping that it serves as a quick reminder that we all encounter obstacles, and being kind to yourself and people around you is the best way to make the most of of this journey. Some of the names below are altered.

Dear Marina, You live in late 2018, and I live in early 2020. It’s been almost two years since you graduated from grad school and you still don’t have a full grasp of work. Even though you work very hard, you still think you’re next on the chopping block. You also feel super defeated after failing CE and PjM in a row and not having passed a single exam yet. I am here to tell you that your worries are genuine, but also that everything will be okay, my dear. Let me tell you - You are not a dummy. You simply don’t know how to prepare and study for these tests yet. That’s okay, nothing wrong with that. Please save yourself energy and don’t waste time comparing yourself to Nick, John and Lucy. They are running their own races; they are learning their own lessons. You have your own lane. The more focused you are on your own lane, the sooner you’ll get to the finish line. For some people, this journey is a sprint, for some it’s a marathon. You’re definitely not a sprinter, and that is okay! Does a marathon runner look at Usain Bolt and beats himself up because he can’t run as fast as Usain? That would be silly, don’t you think? A marathon runner knows his strengths and knows how to take advantage of them. The great news for you is that your ARE journey will train you and transform to become a much-improved version of yourself. You’ll be in this on the long run. It won’t go super fast and smooth, but you will make the most out of everything, and you will learn so much.

I know that one major difficulty you’re having right now is that you feel alone on your journey. You shared all your resources with people that you went to school with (including Rebecca), asked them to study along, but nobody responded really. This Christmas you will receive a Christmas card from Rebecca. She will be her usual bubbly self, but she will drop a bomb at you: she passed PcM and PjM already! You’re going to be very disappointed that she went to study all on her own when you were so close in school. But don’t take that so much against her. I can tell you that you will remain in contact with her, and she is also going to hit her roadblocks. Furthermore, you will advise her on some other exams. Just because you let her be so close to you in school doesn’t give you the right to expect from her to do what you think would be the right thing every time. Let her do what she thinks is the most comfortable for her. She is only doing the best she can right now. Even if she is secretly indulging the fact that she is two exams ahead of you, let it be.

That Christmas card, as hard as it will be to read it, will set a fire in you. You will stop dwelling, dwindling. You will stop your 8-month long hiatus from studying. You will start looking to get back into studying. You will stumble upon this Facebook group called The ARE Facebook Group. In there you will find out about mentorship program, and you will be paired with two healing souls – Kayla and Kaela. By studying with them, you will find much needed motivation, accountability, refuge from unproductivity and consolation. Kayla will be fresh out of school, and Kaela will be 4/6 down the road. You will be meeting them once a week. As you start getting back deep into the matter, you will be able to tap back into your previous experience of failing two exams. You will realize that you simply hadn’t studied hard enough for those CE and PjM attempts. With these two ladies, you will study and pass PcM, PjM and CE in less than three months. Can you believe that? All three exams will be very difficult, but you will see the blue pass. You are going to be so proud of yourself.

By spring 2019 you will already get in the groove of studying with your group and taking exams with Kayla almost on the same day. You will think you got the routine down. Next exam you will be preparing for will be PA. Kaela will be studying for her second attempt at PPD. One day during lunch at work, putting your science nerd hat on, you will sketch out four diagrams explaining passive strategies in four different climates. You will draw it for Kaela, but then you will share your diagrams with the FB group. The post will get over 200 likes and you will be shocked. You will wonder how can something that is natural and normal to you be so helpful to other people. It will motivate you to keep studying the right way, not just to pass the test, but really to become a reliable, trustworthy architect and professional.

Two consecutive PA fails right after will shake you up, but you will grow so much from them. At this point I am very proud of how you handled those two slaps in the face. You won’t let the self doubt dwell for too long. You will learn PA matter well; you will have time to analyze why you failed before and develop strategies for the remaining two exams. You will find what works for you, and you will start helping other people more. All that will catapult you towards an amazing PPD pass on the first try. You will be so proud of yourself. It will be one of those Rocky moments. You’re not just a bum who ultimately gives up and settles for something less. You will be only one step away, and with five passes and four fails in the bag, being a licensed architect will seem very tangible.

In the meantime, you’ll get promoted at work to an Associate. You will start to feel way more confident and will not be afraid to offer suggestions and take initiatives. From your supervisors you will get more clarity and encouragement to keep learning. You will continue to keep helping your ARE peers. You will have to postpone your PDD due to global pandemic that I really don’t want to scare you with right now. I am still powering through the shelter in place and quarantine. Don’t worry, you will be okay. Your face will be breaking out a lot for some reason hmm… Sometimes you will lose motivation, but you will listen to your own advice about seeing every difficulty as an opportunity. It will help you remain positive during hard times.

I haven’t passed PDD yet, but I can assure you that I am going to be well prepared for it. There is a chance that I may not be able to take it for a while, but I won’t let that stop me from getting where I am going. I know I will get there.

Overall, as daunting as your current situation may seem to be, ARE will become your platform to steer your life in the right direction. It will not all be about studying and professional growth. It will be so much about personal growth, connecting with new people, reconnect with old people, waking up that initiator in yourself. You will become a real warrior against negativity, self-doubt, procrastination and self-pitying. You will see through all bs you kept telling yourself for too long, you will forgive yourself and other people for hurting you. Your mind will be in a different place from where you are right now.

I know you probably want to press Fast Forward right now, but that’s not how things work outside Netflix. You can’t run before you can walk. Two best things you can do right now: remember that everything will be okay and, remember to take one day at the time. Be patient, be kind to yourself and other people. Everything will be okay. I love you, Your future self

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