Assistant Architect by Xi He Qing Ling
Chapter 202: Decision
Without financial independence, there was no real freedom and it is for this reason that Zhang Siyi chose to work directly after graduation. At twenty-something, which boy doesn’t want to enter society, stand on their own two feet and showcase their ambitions as soon as possible?
Liao Jun slightly nodded in agreement over Zhang Siyi’s thoughts and also put forward his own ideas about jobs with stable income: “In fact, I was very happy in the beginning to simply work and have a salary. Although there were times I would be disappointed with the type of work I had to do, having received a paycheck every month was very comforting. The more money I had in hand, the easier it was to ignore the aspects about work that I didn’t like and over time, I gradually felt numb. I was just like a cog in a wheel going with the flow. Looking back, that feeling was really terrible. In the end, I think it depends on the situation on how best to achieve financial independence. If you aren’t able to work from your heart, you will regret it later even with a high salary. It’s better to plan ahead and endure a short period of poverty to lay down a solid foundation for the future. From the get go, the time spent might seem like an arduous sacrifice, however for me, three years have already passed in the blink of an eye.”
Zhang Siyi was deeply touched by Liao Jun’s heartfelt remarks and couldn’t help but reflect on the status of his current life.
Indeed, Zhang Siyi rapid growth in the workplace has been going very smoothly. He is already capable of working on various small projects alone. However, as time progresses and investment projects increase, he knows that the material he learned during his undergraduate period was increasingly becoming inadequate. The way forward in his career has become blocked.
For this reason, Zhang Siyi knows that earning a Master’s degree is imperative. Even though he knows that a Master’s degree is no longer an impulsive choice, in the current situation, he wasn’t willing to separate himself from Gu Yu. As a result, Zhang Siyi has been putting his decision to apply for a Master’s program on hold indefinitely.
….. One day I’ll go back to get my master’s degree…. But when? When I’m thirty? Thirty-five? ….
Looking ahead six years, he would be the same age of Gu Yu now. Without further education, he would continue to be doing the same type of work day after day and ultimately continue to be Gu Yu’s subordinate.
Knowing that there is someone nearby who was always looking out for your best interest and wellbeing, it was easy to live day-by-day, without a plan for the future, worry free. Thinking along these lines, Zhang Siyi started to feel guilty and the more he thought about it, the more anxious he felt. In a panic he quickly asked Liao Jun: “How did you make the decision to go back?”
“I asked friends and senior coworkers who had a Master’s degree whether or not they ever regretted their decision to go back to study.” Liao Jun smiled at Zhang Siyi then continued: “Ten out of ten times, people told me they didn’t have regrets. In addition, they had advised me to return to school earlier rather than later because the workplace relies on efficiency and thus, people are rather rushed in the development of projects. There wasn’t time to slow down and think about the process in its entirety and without that, it’s impossible to show comprehensive knowledge about the field and grow as an architect. The longer you wait to go back to school, the harder it was to return.”
Zhang Siyi nodded in agreement over Liao Jun’s well-spoken thoughts. When he first joined the company, he was given half a day to work on an apartment project with Du Rui. During school, there was ample time to create a design, discuss it for problems and then make revisions accordingly. The disparity between corporate work and his University work was clear.
“Moreover, hesitating about it might simply be a product of insecurities. Afterall, to willingly giving up a very comfortable lifestyle for the unknown can be scary.” Liao Jun paused for a moment to drink from his bowl of noodle soup: “Anyway… laying down a solid foundation for your future is the best course of action.”
After their meal, the two men walked back to the hotel. Outside, the rain came down even harder and the pitter-patter of droplets splashing against the window echoed in the quiet room. As the drops flowed downwards, they left streams of lines on the glass like a loose pencil sketch on paper. Nearby, sitting cross-legged quietly at a table, Liao Jun was reviewing the photographs of the area they surveyed…..
With the gloomy weather and unique odor of a sterile hotel room, Zhang Siyi laid in bed ruminating about the ideas that Liao Jun expressed all afternoon. For the first time, he seriously thought about the realities of earning a Master’s degree.
The next morning, even though the day was somewhat gloomy, the group resumed their work and continued with their survey.
In quiet observation, Zhang Siyi watched the process that Liao Jun used to carefully record each set of measurements and note the data down. When Zhang Siyi didn’t understand something, he would question professor Teacher Cui. In their exchange, the professor discussed how to differentiate the architectural styles of ancient times. By carefully inspecting existing monuments and reviewing the urban history of the city, one could extrapolate the timeframe by which the city evolved.
Since Zhang Siyi went to University abroad, he didn’t study ancient Chinese architecture. Originally, he thought all ancient Chinese architecture was similar however, after talking with the professor, he learned about the different styles of each dynasty. There was a large difference between folk architecture and royal architecture.
The style used to renovate the ancient city isn’t based on the architect’s preferences. Rather, in order to maintain the correct details of the building style, there was a rigorous process of thought and deduction to adhere to. For example, many buildings in the Xi’an area have traces of Tang Dynasty influences because of their boldness. In comparison, Qing Dynasty and Yuan Ming architecture is simpler. The prosperity of Chang’an City during the Tang Dynasty had a profound impact with the future development of urban cities in later generations.
The depth of knowledge from a specialized expert was vastly different compared to someone without a background in ancient construction. If Zhang Siyi lead the project, even if he had a greater aptitude for design methods, he wouldn’t know where to start on renovating an ancient city.
When dealing with ancient buildings, graduate students in ancient architecture have to dig deeper and inspect all of the details and nuances in a building as compared to peers who only study modern construction. This mode of thinking, formed from the meticulous observation and evaluation of ancient construction, allows them to see a problem more readily than those who haven’t had such rigorous training.
Before, Zhang Siyi hadn’t thought about such details. Now, in the presence of the experts, he had become more diligent and more concerned about his efforts.
In addition, he slowly became aware of the educational gap between himself and Tao Fei. Even though Tao Fei had a year Master’s program, no matter how hard Zhang Siyi worked to catch up to him, he would be unable to because, not only was the starting point between them too great, Tao Fei would inevitably grow professionally at a faster rate than Zhang Siyi.
In an architectural firm, a post-graduate is commonly the person in charge of large-scale projects and it is conceivable that in two years’ time, a person would be able to take over and assume the responsibilities that GU Yu has.
At Zhang Siyi’s current position, would he be able to? Even if he were given three years or five years, he wouldn’t. There is just too large of a difference between skills of those with a graduate degree versus ones without, both theoretical creativity and practical stylization.
For the past few nights at the hotel, Zhang Siyi started searching the internet for RIBA part 2 information. Specifically, the application deadline and which institutions to apply to. If he wanted to enroll in September next year, then he had to start preparing now. Although it seems far away, in reality there was only a short window of time he could use to prepare his portfolio for the application.
The easiest place to apply to was his Alma Mater as the department gives priority to those whom graduated from their undergraduate program and besides, Zhang Siyi graduated with decent grades.
However, studying at the same university under professors who teach in the same style might be too narrow of an education. Zhang Siyi thought it would be better to learn from another institution in order to broaden his knowledge to a greater extent and thus, he focused his efforts on two other universities.
Tao Fei has earned his Master’s from one of the most prestigious University in the UK. In addition, many internationally renowned architects have also studied there. While Tao Fei studied for one year, the real golden nugget is the multi-year program that is recognized by RIBA part 2.
However, the application for this course is the most difficult. As it stands, 80% of Zhang Siyi’s undergraduate projects won’t even be qualified to use in the application. Even so, with the amount of progress he has made at the company, Zhang Siyi felt like he could give it a shot and apply.
Another option is the University that Yu Rui graduated from. Setting aside Yu Rui’s negative influence in the circle of friends, the architectural department was indeed a very worthwhile program, but since the degree offered by the program isn’t the same, the value isn’t as great.
After deciding on the three schools to apply too, the next step was to think about financing his education and thus, Zhang Siyi encountered the second problem: money.
All three schools were located in the London area. In addition to high tuition fees, he would also have to deal with the high cost of living. For a two-year Master’s program, it would require something along the lines of one million yuan.
Now that he thought about it, he knew he wouldn’t be able to acquire the large sum of money on such short notice alone. One option would be to wait until he earned enough money, but that would be self-defeating and prolong the process.
On the bed, Zhang was laying on his side with bitter feelings….. What should I do? Speak to my parents?
In spite of his brave declaration of independence to his father, it was the first thought that came to mind. In reality, if he was in real economic need, he instinctively thought about his parents first because he knew that they would do everything they could to meet his legitimate demands.
However, this transpired a year ago and if he had asked at that time, he had no qualms about asking. After all, he was used to his father’s antics, but now it was different because he was with Gu Yu. For this reason, Zhang Siyi felt he had no right to ask his parents for anything for the rest of his life so he immediately withdrew the thought.
Facing the reality of the situation, Zhang Siyi roughly shut his laptop in frustration and grabbed his iPad to play games….
To take his mind off his problems, he opened Era of Music and cleared all nine levels on hard mode with ease. Tapping the keys with all ten fingers, Zhang Siyi imagined this was his battlefield…. Ah! Ah! Bo! Bo! Why can’t learning architecture be as simple as playing a game? Why did he choose a career path that was so difficult to clear!
After an hour of games, Zhang Siyi collapsed on the bed. He felt even more depressed at the hurdle he must overcome if he wanted to continue his education. As his thoughts were becoming darker, the phone rang. Looking at his phone, Zhang Siyi saw the caller ID: Gu Yu
Afraid of being overheard by Liao Jun, he quickly put on his shoes and went outside to answer the call. Making himself as nondescript as possible, Zhang Siyi leaned against the window at the end of the hotel corridor and listened to the soothing sound of Gu Yu’s voice over the phone.
Gu Yu had asked him how he has been since his departure, what he has been doing during the day and what he ate at night…. Gu Yu soft and attentive voice had the power to heal his somber heart. Zhang Siyi’s mood slightly improved.
To be fair, Zhang Siyi’s life has been very lucky. Not only was he born into a well-off family with good educational conditions, he also met a great boss at the first place of work and now, this person has become the perfect lover….
Was Zhang Siyi too ambitious? Perhaps it was better to lower the bar and consider going to a domestic college so he doesn’t have to be separated from Gu Yu…… But if that was the case, his royal registered architect’s license was defunct. What was the point of getting it in the first place?
In order to move forward with his career, he had to get a Master’s degree and it was imperative that he earn his RIBA part 2 license. One was to enhance his skills and the other was to obtain an industry pass. The two were inseparable.
After chatting for a little while, Gu Yu picked up on Zhang Siyi’s mood and asked: “What’s the matter? Are you ok?”
Zhang Siyi hesitated. A thought suddenly popped into his mind. What if he asked Gu Yu to borrow money? He was surprised by his own idea.
Since Gu Yu was rich, he subconsciously thought the idea wasn’t unimaginable. Knowing Gu Yu personality, he was likely to give him the money, but this wasn’t in line with Zhang Siyi’s principles of life and love. He had always advocated for economic independence between lovers when possible. Moreover, with such a large sum of money, even if Gu Yu was willing, Zhang Siyi felt like he would be indebted to Gu Yu forever. He didn’t want the issue of money to affect their relationship. No sooner did the thought come to mind did Zhang Siyi push it aside.
Of course, the most fundamental issue was the fact that Zhang Siyi hadn’t mentioned the idea of going abroad for a Master’s degree with Gu Yu yet. Even if he was reluctant to leave Gu Yu’s side, was Gu Yu feeling the same?
The voice on the other side of the phone jokingly asked: “Do you miss me?”
Even though Gu Yu’s teasing prompted Zhang Siyi to reply with ‘I miss you’, Zhang Siyi instead replied: “Well….”
Zhang Siyi suddenly plucked up the courage to talk about it and in a serios tone, he said: “Boss.”
When Gu Yu heard the sincerity in Zhang Siyi’s voice, he became serious and asked: “What’s wrong?”
Zhang Siyi knew that he could not take back his thoughts and the only thing he could do now was to put the greatest trust in his love and confess all his ideas and concerns with Gu Yu.
Zhang Siyi bit the bullet and asked: ”I want to ask you a question.”
Gu Yu: “Hmm?”
Zhang Siyi: “If I said I wanted to go back England to study for a master’s degree, what would you think?”
Falling into silence, the conversation abrupted stopped. After waiting for a bit, Zhang Siyi suddenly regretted opening his mouth and hastened to retract his statement: “I… I was just casually thinking about it. I’m not sure I want to go. The tuition is very expensive and I can’t afford to go now….”
Gu Yu remained unresponsive.
Zhang Siyi panicked and asked: “Are you listening?”
Gu Yu replied with a soft ‘well’ then paused. In that time, Zhang Siyi could hear a quiet contemplative sigh.
Zhang Siyi didn’t know what to say. The concern over Gu Yu’s wellbeing was far greater than any of the problems associated with applying for a Master’s in England.
After a minute of silence, Gu Yu finally said: “I need some time to think about it. I’ll give you an answer then.”
Zhang Siyi didn’t understand why Gu Yu didn’t answer him. Wasn’t it as easy as saying ‘it’s a good idea’ or ‘that’s a bad idea’….? Is the answer so complicated? In fact, if Gu Yu thought it was a bad idea, he would obediently stay home because he was willing to stay by Gu Yu side in the same capacity for the rest of his life.
“It’s getting late. Don’t think about it too much. Get some sleep,” Gu Yu said and ended the conversation with a “good night.”
After Gu Yu hung up, although Zhang Siyi regretted his candid outburst, he paradoxically was looking forward to Gu Yu’s reply.
With Zhang Siyi attention focused on the renovation project, time flew by. With two days remaining of the two-week business trip, they were nearing the end of their work assignment. Professor Cui gave them the last day off to become a tourist and enjoy their surroundings.
In order to plan for a fun day off, Zhang Siyi and Liao Jun were surfing the Internet in their room. A sudden knock on the door interrupted them. Since Liao Jun was closer to the door, he got up quickly to answer it. When he opened it, he lifted his brow in surprise and said: “Guh.…”
Liao Jun wasn’t quite sure how to address the unexpected visitor. Since he wasn’t an employee of Borderless, he wouldn’t be able to say ‘Boss’ like Bi Lele does and Professor Cui has some familiarity with him so he uses ‘Young Gu’ often. Zhang Siyi is on a first name basis so ultimately, Liao Jun said: “Director Gu.”
Gu Yu nodded down and asked: “Is Zhang Siyi in?”
When Zhang Siyi heard the familiar voice, he instantly turned around to see what was going on. Gu Yu was standing at the door with a small overnight duffle in one hand and holding a key-card in another. Apparently, he just arrived and hadn’t yet gone to his own room.
……… Why does that guy always pop-up at the most unexpected times? Fuck! His heart is going to explode!
“Room 0302. Come with me for a little while.” Gu Yu held up his key-card, expressionless.
Zhang Siyi quickly got off the bed, put on slippers, and gave a nod to Liao Jun before leaving the room.
After they went inside Gu Yu’s room, Zhang Siyi immediately asked: “Why are you here? Did you have dinner yet?”
Gu Yu simply put his bag on the bed, loosened his tie then turned around to grab Zhang Siyi, kiss him and hold him close.