Deep Cuts

A return to the classroom, but two weeks ago…

“I’m going in deep!” – Kitchen Knife

A ruined dinner, plenty of obscenities, lots of blood, and three stitches. An old lime with a hard rind had rolled left with the blade still attached. My fingers didn’t stand a chance.

Kinda reminds me of when I decided to leave a solid career and pursue this graduate degree. “I’m going in deep!” I had said.

I’ve had varied professions over the years. I’ve tended bar, waited tables, worked construction, and of course designed some really cool products. My last decade was with a luxury lighting firm in Floyd, VA. You can see my light fixtures in capitol buildings, universities, museums, and skyscrapers. Sections of Disney World and RAMSA-designed residentials are illuminated with some of my thoughts. I’m proud of them. I really am. But I am most proud of the team of designers and engineers I have had the pleasure to train and work alongside. I’ve always had a mind to teach, but they are the reason I decided to return to academia.

The cutting moment happened in late 2017, as the last engineer I had personally hired was reviewing one of my drawings. All documents were required to have a double-check before they were sent to the client. Kevin was now an adept and able to review his boss’ work. Suddenly his bored eyes lit up like Christmas.

“I did it! I found one!!” he exclaimed.
“Found what?” I asked.
“A mistake,” he said slowly. “I found a mistake on your drawing.”
“Good,” I replied in amusement. “Mark it up.”
“Really? Seriously! Where’s a red pen?” He searched frantically. “I’ve always wanted to do this.”
“Do what?” I asked.
“This.” And he drew a deliberate red circle around a misspelled word, his smile from ear to ear. Then he spoke again, “For my first year I was so terrified of the red-lines you made on my drawings. I was always worried I was going to get fired every time I saw them bleed across the page.”
“Well, how else were you going to learn?” I asked. He nodded. “And besides, you rarely get them anymore. You’re a really good engineer, Kevin.”
“I know. You taught me well.”

Straight to my damned heart. They don’t make stitches for that. I know I’d grown kinda hard and crusty, even a little bitter over the years. I mean, look at those forehead wrinkles. Fourteen years of industry work and two decades of cigarettes will do that. But, they don’t protect you from an honest friend. My team and my company were in great hands. It was time to go teach others. I quit smoking. I applied to graduate school. I left the business. 

My wife and I have moved to the area. You can find me in Burchard Hall, where I am working on my MS Arch with a focus on Industrial Design. I hope you’ll help me along with way, and, if ever I can assist you in your own journey, I’ll be there.