I Just Can’t Do This Anymore

Work Life

This month’s #Architalks is “Work Life.”


I wish I could write a blogpost about how I show up at work every morning on time and in a chipper mood. I then work for a few hours, enjoy a healthy, relaxing lunch, and punch out at the end of the day feeling refreshed by a hard day’s work. I go home to my beautiful wife and kids and don’t think about work until I show up again to punch in the next morning. I would wrap up this imaginary blogpost with some simple, actionable tips about how to maintain a work/life balance as an Architect.

Dear god, I sincerely wish I could write that blogpost.

That is just not me or my life. My balance between work and life has always been a struggle.

I spent a significant amount of time trying to write this Work Life blogpost without getting near the elephant in the room, because I didn't want to talk about it.

But I might as well just confront it…


The Elephant in the Room

Two weeks ago, I resigned from my Capital Project Manager position with the City of Portland. My last day is September 25.

Arriving at this decision, coming to terms with it and even explaining it, feels awkwardly similar to breaking up with a girlfriend whom you’ve known for awhile, “…it hasn’t been working out” and she seems to think everything is fine.

 “It’s not you; it’s me.”


Lots of reasons.

It’s not worth getting into the minutia of it, because they all point to the big “kick in the ass” reason of:

It's time for Michael Riscica to move on to something else.

It was a great job. It still is. I fought like hell to get this job, and I was really good at it. Many people wish they had it. It has been the best professional job that I’ve ever had. I love my coworkers, and I grew more in this position than in any other professional job.

I am walking away because as I went about my day-to-day routine, there was a huge disconnect between:

The work I had to do every day vs. The work I wanted to be doing every day

Four years ago when I started this job, I was constantly learning new things, meeting new people, and being informed about how to be a better Architect. Even though I wasn’t technically working as an architect, I actually felt more like an architect because I was constantly making big decisions that resulted in seeing a ton of work get built. It was fun. I spent money, rather than make money.

As time went on, it became hard for me to connect with and be excited about doing the same projects over and over and over again. At some point during the past 6 months, the things that were serving me and keeping me excited… stopped.


Be careful what you wish for

In 2012, I decided it was time to finish getting my architecture license. I did that and immediately started moonlighting as a Licensed Architect. I also started learning about how the internet works and began building this Young Architect blog, which grew 5 times faster than I ever dreamed it would.

For the past 3½  years, I have spent all of my lunch breaks, nights, and weekends studying for exams, drafting in AutoCad, obtaining permits for personal projects, writing blog posts and a book, and even teaching architecture to 3rd and 5th graders.

That has been my life, outside of work.

The longer I juggle these 2 lives without being fully committed to either of them, the more frequently I start to see wonderful opportunities passing me by.

The biggest challenge I always had was time. I always gave 40 hours a week to my day job and struggled to find the time to work on my personal projects that got me really excited.

Having a day job has given me a whole lot more money than time. I am about to flip that. I want my 40 hours a week back.


What Are You Going To Do?!??

The first thing is get into shape and get healthier. I always took care of everyone else before I took care of myself. I need to prioritize my health, fitness, and well-being. Everything has ALWAYS been scheduled around my day job, making things happen for other people and not myself.

I am going to work on Young Architect. I wrote the ARE Book; its sales grow every month, and it has excellent reviews. The ARE Boot Camp is about to start. I want to keep working on my writing, keep learning more about how the internet works, and write more books. I will create more products and programs and will ideally earn the bulk of my income from internet projects. This internet projects give me a ton of energy and keep me connected and excited.

I am going to get more serious about starting an architecture business. I wish I could say I have a client or a plan that will keep me busy during this transition, but I just don’t. Sure, I have some work and clients, but definitely not enough. I also have had zero bandwidth to take on anything besides small projects up until this point.

I have a ton of knowledge about managing government construction projects and the role of an Architect within the City of Portland. I will eventually go after the projects I used to manage. I confidently know my relationship with the City of Portland is far from being over.

I want to travel. Since graduating from architecture school in 2007, I haven’t traveled anywhere other than the east coast to visit family. I call this family maintenance; it’s not a vacation and I come home more exhausted then before I left.

A few months ago, I had a meltdown and booked a trip to Mexico to do yoga for a week this fall. In the summer of 2016, I am planning to bicycle across America and have already started planning it. I told a friend my cross-country plans, and he asked “What are you going to do about your job?”  At that time, I had no good answer. The real answer is that I’m sick of feeling like I need to ask permission to do these things. Two weeks of vacation a year isn’t working for me, it never has. In the past few years, I have used all my time off on: architect exams, family maintenance, yoga teacher training, volunteering and attending workshops and conferences. I NEED to go to mexico for a week to do yoga.

I want to teach. I want to teach everything I know. I want to teach architecture, yoga, cycling and help the next generation of young architects be more successful in school and at work. There was no way I could ever get involved with teaching with the 9-5 schedule I’ve had. This was partly what inspired me to start the Young Architect blog. It amazes me how I have always been passionate about teaching and how little of it I have done. It is my job to move information and energy, it always has been.

Isn’t this a risk?

Yep, it’s a huge risk. If I fail, I have no backup or wealthy relative who will bail me out or take care of me. I’ll go deep into credit card debt, until I get over myself and go get a job.

I do however have a few things working in my favor:

  1. I have a little bit of money saved—but definitely not the 6 months people recommend when making this kind of leap.
  2. All of my projects have momentum and are already earning money. They are currently earning ¾ of my city paycheck.
  3. By design, I live a simple life. I have no wife or kids, mortgage, car payment, or even credit card debt. It’s just me, my dog, and my student loans. Hell, I don’t even have a girlfriend anymore. My overhead is low.

I always knew someday I would quit my day job and start my own thing. The timing isn’t perfect now, but I also don’t think waiting any longer is serving me.

I’m 35 years old, and time is starting to accelerate.


I don’t know anything about it.

My life is the work.

When I am dissatisfied with my life, I tend to work harder as a means to an end.

Even after a lot of hard work and arriving at a comfortable place with job security, I got bored. And realize it’s more about the work than it is about being comfortable.

If I was smart, I would just my show up every day at my job, put my head down, shut up, and climb the ladder without ever leaving my comfort zone.

Unfortunately, that was never my plan.

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Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, Founder and Head Coach of the ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program & Online Study Group.

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