Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The More Things Change
While working on last week's posts, I came across this one and it struck me how similar things feel now with all of the newness of online instruction. Not too long ago, I changed offices at work, and I even got to personalize the space a little. I'm now part of a suite of offices populated by colleagues who are fun and I'm looking forward to revisiting that office soon. But, for now, my office is just off my living room, my wardrobe is at-home casual, and I still don't miss those inservices.

When I retired from public education, I knew there would be things I wouldn't miss. Early morning meetings. Faculty meetings. Irrelevant inservices. (Are you sensing a theme?)

But it didn't take me long to realize that there's one thing I do miss: an office.

I also miss the people and the parts of the job I loved, of course, but I expected that. I didn't expect a small, cluttered room with hand-me-down furniture to leave a void.

At first, being able to work at home -- anywhere I wanted -- was exciting. Tired of sitting at a desk? Move to the sofa. Tired of the sofa? Relocate to the dining room table. Sick of the house, or just plain distracted? Head over to Starbucks.

The wardrobe was better, too. Well, not better quality or more professional -- just cheaper and more comfortable. Sweatshirts and pj bottoms were de rigeur and makeup was optional.

I'm not sure why it surprised me to discover that adjusting to this new lifestyle also required adjusting my perception of who I was. For 27 years, I'd been a professional educator and a semi-professional writer. My new work environment and wardrobe, though functional and comfortable, didn't feel like professional anything. And even though articles and books got written and edited, classes got planned and correspondence got sent -- all amid the comforts of home -- the lack of a traditional workspace, though romantic and freeing in theory, made the limbo created by an early retirement less gap than chasm.

A year into this adventure, I was hired as an adjunct professor, adding a new role to the midlife collage, and bringing with it an unexpected bonus.

Office hours.

Once a week, for an hour, I pulled an office chair up to an L-shaped desk in a shared room with little to offer in the way of decor -- a far cry from the crazy quilt of animal prints and bright colors that had been my home base in an elementary school across town.

And I loved it.

Three semesters later, my course load has grown and with it, my office hours. I'm required to offer an hour for each course I teach, but I typically spend more time in the office than that. It's peaceful -- mostly -- and the academic atmosphere fills a void I didn't expect to have, but that -- once again -- shouldn't have surprised me. After all, you can take the counselor out of the school, but, apparently, you can't take the school out of the counselor.

At home, I'm working on making my office less haphazard and more of a true workspace. My Wednesday posts (and new blog) on organization have nudged me toward more efficiency, as well as more personalization.

If Virgina Woolf is right, and "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction," then I think, perhaps, I'm on the right track.

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