“It’s okay, none of us know what we want to do with our lives,” Cole said.
“I know what I want to do,” Jean chimed in without thinking – as she was so prone to doing. Fuck, I did it again, she thought as she felt the eyes of the other three twenty-somethings burning into her. She had just met them that night, why was her enthusiasm for life she always getting herself into these uncomfortable situations?
“What are you going to do?” Cole asked warily after a pause.
“I’m going to change the world…” she said eagerly, with a smile. No! Damn it! That’s not any better, you’re not helping yourself! “…with architecture,” Jean quipped, as she played with the glass of champagne in front of her on the table. She was suddenly aware of how small and windowless the apartment was and she prayed for the right words to make herself seem less strange.
“I want to design ecological waste water treatment systems for developing cities and give people in South American slums a way to recycle their precious and expensive water supply. They’ll be low-tech too, so the people can build them themselves, without much help or money.”
The other three were silent for a beat as Jean thought about how at the very least she had managed to sound informed. Radical, but informed. It was a time in her life when she felt a deep desire for the freedom to talk about her plan to change the world. Jean was a compassionate person, filled with the belief that one person truly can make a difference in the lives of others if only they believe in themselves. She had just finished an intense professional degree program and was eager to find others who also believed that architects had ethical and humanitarian responsibilities.
In that brief moment of silence Jean saw the vague image of a city sprawled out before her, filled with green spaces and people who lived their lives in tune with nature, people who respected their environment and had left behind ideas like waste and pollution. She tried to wrap her brain around the words to describe how she planned to make such places a reality. She wanted desperately to share this vision, not just with the people around her but with the world too because once people saw what she saw, Jean knew there would be no turning back.
Jean tried to think of how to explain the importance of green spaces in a city, how they make people more likely to walk longer distances and that means there are less cars on the roads and less pollution in the air. She thought about how the sunlight and trees made people physically healthier with their Vitamin D and cleaner air and she thought about how buildings that used natural light and ventilation equally made people healthier.
In the space of that silence she felt her heart breaking for all the people who lived in dark, unventilated apartments, who lived without connections to water or electricity, whose cities were so unwalkable that they had to drive to the grocery store every week. She felt the pain of those who lived in cities designed for cars, not people, solely for the benefit of investors’ wallets and not those who walked in them every day and her heart broke that she could not change it all with a snap of her fingers.
“Wow. That’s cool…” someone said automatically.