“First you have to learn to do something, then you can go out and do it.”
– Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
If someone asked me to describe my traits, self-patience would not be one of the first things that come to mind. I like to be able to do things, and to be able to do them now.
Throughout school, I had so many hobbies and took up multiple co-curricular activities, all of which at the time I was determined to be amazing at. I would hours the first few weeks practising this new hobby to the extent that I wouldn’t much of any else, until one day, I get frustrated that I still wasn’t very good and then I’d stop. A great example of this is my relationship with musical instruments.
I spent around 5 years learning the piano. I had lessons once a week and used to practice every morning, until one day at my new school we we’re all choosing instruments for the band and the piano was already taken. So I had to choose another instrument; I had a choice of the clarinet, trumpet or the French horn, all of which I had no experience with. I tried each one out and eventually settled on the French horn. At first I loved it, I was the only French horn player in the band and I thought give it a few weeks and I’d sound great. A few weeks went by and I still sounded awful, a year went by and I still sounded awful. So I decided that perhaps the French horn wasn’t for me, and a year later in music class decided to try something different, and so I picked up the flute. Again, I played for about a year and still sounded terrible, so I joined the choir, and again, after a few years, I was still as un-musical as I was when I started.
So, I eventually wrote music off all together, no matter what I did, I wasn’t good at it. The thing was, it’s not what I did, it’s what I didn’t do. I never practiced. I thought my one or two music lessons a week was enough ,and that I should just be able to go out and do it without really putting in the hard yards. When I look back at the things, I thought I wasn’t good at, it’s not because I was bad at them, it was because I didn’t take the time to properly learn them. I struggled all the time with Maths at school, but always felt that English came to me naturally, when in fact, there was a time when I was in a lower graded class for English than for Maths, the difference was: I spent hours reading and inadvertently ‘studying’ English, determined to do well in that subject and so it wasn’t surprising that as the years went by I excelled in writing-based subjects compared to numerical ones. I highly doubt, that I just woke up one day and was able to form cohesive, well-written and persuasive arguments for my essays even though till this day, it still feels like I did.
I think the major difference between the subjects and activities I stuck to and did well at was the fact that I had the patience to learn and to fail. I failed French for years consistently, to the point that all my teachers recommend that I discontinue the subject. Me, being, me and 16 and ‘rebellious’ decided I would take in for my HSC anyway, and I did and I well. I made it into the top stream at university. How? I busted a gut. But then I got to uni and thought, ‘I’ll be fine, I’ll pick it up. No worries!’ And what did I discover? French at university is really hard, and that if I want to keep doing well at French, I have to keep practicing. I can’t just work hard for a year and then know it all for life, if I want to go out and work in France, I’ve got to continually practice it whether it’s through university or not.
So, I was sitting around last week, kinda feeling a frustrated with myself, and it kind of went along like this: “How come, virtually all my assignments take so much work just to do decently at, but I could write an essay last-minute, off the top of my head, for a book I kind of skimmed and a subject I don’t study for, and bam, here’s 85%?”
The answer: I read and write all the time and I don’t think of it as study. If actually counted the amount of time I spent doing English related activities, it’d be more than the amount of time I put into everything else, so of course it’s ‘easy’ for me. If I put that time into my maths, my french, my skateboard, I would be equally as good at those things. So why do I struggle to put time into them, is it because I don’t like them? No. It’s because it requires a lot of patience to work at things you’re not familiar with and it’s hard to be patient with yourself when it feels like ‘you just don’t get it’.
So what’s all this got to do with the architect? Well, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is a famous German-American minimalist architect who much of Chicago’s great skyline is attributed to. He’s renowned world-wide for his skill as a designer, architect, philosopher and educator, yet did not receive any formal training but was able to achieve so much. I’ve been reading and researching his biography and he’s the type of person who did the hard yards, and someone, I hope to emulate ideologically. He’s also the man the popularised the phrase and idea ‘less is more’, which is one of the main tenants of the minimalism community and hence why I started looking into him.
So, as I work through my first ever unit of design at university, I’m going to embrace his principles on learning. I’m not going to master adobe creative collections in one day, let alone the duration of this subject, but hopefully, in a few months time, I will have the understanding and knowledge to start creating interesting graphics and apply it my other subjects and interests. Who knows, if I become good enough, I might even be able to make some swift pictures for my blog, eventually of course, I’m still trying to get my head around Photoshop haha!