Thursday, July 26, 2007

Office Dreams

So it turns out that if your work space isn't functional, it's hard to function in it. Who knew, right?

Since I came to graduate school five years ago, I've been working on the same 24"X36" table. That's where my computer, stacks of paper, mug of pens, books, CDs, and any number of pointless objects have lived. I have no idea why I thought that was a good idea. I mean, there is the space thing. That space thing where I have none to work with. I live in a tiny little house with a tiny little yard and a tiny little bedroom and no office space. Anywhere. Hell, I don't even have closets. It's my own little 600 square foot paradise, and I love it truly.

But let's be honest. I'm a grad student. I dream of an office with big windows and high ceilings and infinite bookshelves from floor to ceiling. I dream of room to pace and mutter, a rug on the floor where I can sit and organize documents in piles around the room, an enormous desk with a hutch full of cubbies and slots for papers and paperclips. My office dreams are big dreams. My space is very small.

I've known for a while that the little table shoved into a corner of my kitchen was not working for me. I vowed to rework it this summer. I spent the better part of a week looking at desks in shops and furniture stores and office supply warehouses. I measured and measured and measured. I measured my tiny space so many times that Bug would bark at me when I pulled out the tape measure, sure it meant nothing fun was coming his way. I made many frustrated phone calls to my mother, who apparently is required by motherly obligation to listen to me whine and bitch about the limitations of my space and bank account.

And then last week, the following e-mail arrived in my in-box:

Available: A desk. Big dark wood, 58" long, no drawers. Lots of great dissertating space. With this desk, the dissertation pretty much writes itself. (It takes like a decade to do it, but it pretty much writes itself.)

I immediately began negotiations for the desk. I admit that I was wooed, sight unseen, by a desk that might write my dissertation for me. If I was willing to get rid of a bookcase (oh, god) I had 60" in which to slip a desk. The desk came home with me a few days later, revealing itself to be, frankly, ugly and battered, but an excellent size with excellent potential. I spent the next four days sanding, painting, and moving things about. Rearranging and finding homes for the books displaced by the sacrificed bookshelf took two full days. (No, really. Turns out that my books are arranged such that if one spot is lost, the entire organization must be redone.) Untangling and organizing all the cords and plugs around my desk took an embarrassing amount of time. I spent, seriously, a full day looking for some kind of storage device to put on the desk so I'd have a place to put my small and much-loved plant. I found one.

And then last night, I put my computer on the new space, my pens, my plant. I placed a sunflower from my garden on the filing cabinet and a picture of my grandmother next to the plant. I stood back, and looked, and suddenly felt like a dragon erupted from my chest, beating its wings as it flew from the house. I couldn't stop looking at the new space. I giggled when I walked past. I was so fucking relieved. I had no idea how badly I needed an office space that worked. I woke up in the night last night and smiled. And today, with my grandmother looking on and a perfect view of a hilarious chickadee making short work of the seed in my feeder, I did more work than I've done in months. Months. I sent e-mail and made notes and thought thoughts. I didn't get up and pace around and I didn't look longingly at the television, though I can see it from here. I ran some errands at lunch, and came back to my desk, excited to sit and stare at the computer and out the window and cross things from my list. And now, I sit here blogging. I sit in my new office space and dream of the work I'll get done instead of the space in which to do it. I'll just keep dreaming. My desk is going to write the dissertation now.


Blogger Horace said...

My god, what work, but how liberating. I always get the feeling as I'm doing one of these major projects of reorganizing my space, gaining control over the clutter, etc., that I'm also reorganizing my life, and gaining control of that clutter, too.

So here's to a new work space and all the work that will be done there!

5:31 PM  
Blogger Sisyphus said...

Awesome ---- you don't let that magic dissertating desk out of your sight, now, hear?

... can I come over and have it do a chapter or two? (she asks in a very small voice.) I'll bring ice cream and videos.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Tyson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Ancrene Wiseass said...

I've been doing lots of spatial reorganization lately, too. It makes a huge difference, doesn't it? And it's sooo worthwhile to do it the right way, even if it takes weeks.


11:44 PM  
Blogger Acre said...

You're right and right and right some more, Horace, in your comment that it's about rearranging your life, as well.

I'm glad, Ancrene, that you're getting the renewal of reorganization, as well. It's a good summer activity!

And sisyphus, you can definitely borrow the desk. Hell, any woman who comes over with ice cream and videos can have use of anything she likes.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Anniina said...

Oh sincerest congrats! I am so happy for you and your new dissertation-writing desk :)

1:47 AM  
Blogger New Kid on the Hallway said...

What a lovely space! Rearranging is good. I look forward to arranging my own space for the same reasons (then I'll probably have to rearrange! but eh). It looks so great!

8:22 PM  
Blogger Acre said...


1:06 PM  

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