About me:

I am the second oldest of 6 children. I was born in Santa Monica but despite being next to the ocean, I didn't like water when I was little. Not the ocean, not pools. While I wasn't swimming, I learned that I liked to draw. I drew all the time, I mostly remember drawing ducks and fish and whales.

The summer before I turned 8 years old, my family moved to Fountain Valley (next to Huntington Beach). That is where I met Steve Bringe, we became best friends by the time we were 9 years old. Steve liked to draw too, so we would draw together. And play with Legos, we both like Legos. Every year for Steve's birthday we would go to Disneyland together. Back then $20 paid for our all day pass, lunch and a snack. I miss those days! By then I had overcome my fear of water, one of my activities was competing on the local swim team. I was dead middle average, the worst of the good swimmers and the best of the bad swimmers. I remember one time when I was swimming in a heat with the bad swimmers, one of the guys on my team, Trey, just before the starter went off yelled, "Derek!" I said, "What?" He said, "Don't beat me!" I told him, "I'm sorry, I'm going to beat you." And I did.

As 9th grade was nearing, I needed to sign up for the classes I was going to take. I needed one more election and my dad suggested I take drafting. I said, "What is drafting?" He told me it was drawing but with rulers and straight edges. I got tired of drawing classes after 6th grade. I could only draw so many 3d boxes and isometric multi layered birthday cakes. But I was in the mood for an easy A so I signed up for that class. Turned out I did really well. Like, really well. Juniors in my class were impressed with my work and every assignment I turned in got at least 100%. It had been a while since I enjoyed that kind of success.

But life finds a way. My parents got divorced and I had to move to Arizona with my mom and siblings. The Junior High I transferred to didn't have a drafting program. But they did have a pool for P.E. One day the coach decided to announce that he would entertain a race. If one of us could beat him, we wouldn't have to do exercises, we could have free swim the whole period. I stood at the back, knowing I would race and win while everyone around me asked, who is fast, who is fast, are you fast, and one kid said, "Wilson, you're fast!" So I took my place at the edge of the pool with the coach and 2 other kids. I'm not sure why they were there but ok. Someone said "Go" and I dove in and jammed across to the other edge. I watched ast the coach slowly got to the other end, stood up and wiped the water out of his eyes with a smile, and then he saw me waiting for him. His countenance fell, like he'd never been beaten by a child before and he announced free swim for the rest of the period.

At church I made a new friend that went to a different Junior High School. One weekend I spent the night at his parent's house and went with him the next morning to his swim team time trials. They had a meet coming up. I was in the 13-14 year old boys age group. Out of everyone on that team, only 1 person finished faster than me. She competed in the 15-17 year old age group. The coach asked me if I wanted to join the team. I said no. It is no fun shooting fish in a barrel when you're not hungry and you don't like fish anyway.

Lucky for me, I started 10th grade soon after that. I could take drafting again. My teacher took that class seriously and I only got 98% or 99% on each assignment, making the same mistakes every time and never fixing them. I quickly became the teachers pet and other students knew it and tried to take advantage of it. Can't blame them for trying. My Junior year I took a Basic Architecture class and a Basic Engineering class. I decided I liked architecture better. So my Senior year I took Advanced Architecture. My teacher was the Industrial Arts Head at that high school and he was preparing to take a position as the Industrial Arts Head at a brand new high school the following year so he gave me special assignments for me to work on for him that he could take to his new school. He told me that for doing these extra assignments, he would give me an A for the year because he knew I'd earn an A anyway. That was fun.

Enter my lost phase. I have graduated from high school and I didn't go to college. So now what? A good friend's younger sister working at the only McDonald's in Gilbert, AZ at the time said that if I worked there I could wear a full baseball style cap instead of one of those stupid visors. So I got a job there. And then I got married and wanted to make more money so I started doing the homework and taking classes to work my way up to Hamburger University. And once a year the guy who played Ronald McDonald in the Phoenix area would come and do a show. After the show he would back into the kitchen where I worked and he would address "The working people!" And the third time he did that, he pointed at me and said, "Hey you still work here!?" I thought, oh sh*t, Ronald remembers me.

At some point in the mid 90s I realized I was working myself to death for customers that thought I was a loser because I didn't have enough free time or money to purchase a new pair of shoes and for less than minimum wage because I was on salary so I decided to make a career change and signed up for architecture classes at High Tech University in Phoenix where I enjoyed the same or better success than I did in high school and I was voted best all around student at my graduation by my professors. I won against all the morning, afternoon and evening students that graduated in August in November that year. That wasn't luck, that was my design.

In the next couple of decades I enjoyed mild success working in architecture, I got divorced and eventually remarried but something was holding me back. I got diagnosed with mild OCD. I spent the next decade or so thinking that on a good day I was a better than average employee because of that but after I got divorced a second time and fired from my job multiple times I realized that there are no good days. I'm married a third time now and ready to seek professional help to save me from living a life of being doomed to get divorced and fired over and over.

Wish me luck. Stay tuned, maybe my story will have a happy ending. Oh! on a good note, Steve Bringe and I are still best friends after 40 years. I'm currently working with a buddy that I met at High Tech Institue 28 years ago and a registered architect that we started working with 10 years ago. They are great guys and I feel lucky to be working with them.

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