When not teaching (which would be also known as the parts of summer before and after Summer School), I work for a publishing company that puts out a book (and a CD-ROM) dealing with lots at different auction houses around the world (such Christies, Sothebys, PBA Galleries, and more). It's not the most fascinating job, and I spend most of my time working with these catalogues and my computer.
What's interesting to me, however, is how I have turned my desk into my personal space. I hadn't really thought about how people personalize their desks or their cubes until I started looking around one day while working on a catalogue. Directly above the screen I look at is a picture of my wife. I keep this picture here not only to make me smile but to also remind me of why I'm working. When I get frustrated, I look to that picture for serenity.
Next to that picture is a stress ball with a smiley face on it. I got that ball at a party in college. I was able to throw three rings over a coke bottle while inebriated. That ball was my prize. It sits on a piece of metal that was cut by a laser (the first gift from my wife).
Next to that is a game: Curious George's Fishing Puzzle. When I was in college, my friend Liz gave me this game as a gift. She knew how much I liked Curious George (I still do). I can still remember when Liz gave me the box. It was my birthday, and I was hanging out at her place. She came to the living room with a big smile on her face. It just made her beam. You have to understand that Liz didn't smile very often, so to see her smiling was, in itself, a gift. She handed the box to me and gave me a hug. Other than my wife, she is the kindest person I know.
Next to that box is my latest addition to my Curious George collection. A Curious George Stress Toy. It's George sitting on a ball. I don't use it, because it's so darn cute.
I am not the only one who tries to personalize their space. At her work, my wife has a cubicle. Ever seen the movie Office Space? Her work area looks ALOT like that. Cubicles everywhere, heads bobbing up and down. It's quite funny. Anyway, for our anniversary, I snuck into her cubicle and left flowers, a gift, and a note. Her area is nicer and bigger than mine, but I was struck by how many pictures of us she had up. Beyond just a photo of us from when we got married, she had photos from our travels together, photos of friends, she even had some Minnesota Wild stuff (she wasn't into Hockey before we got together). There was also a book shelf where she kept a book I gave her (it's called Bad Cat, and I highly recommend it to anyone who owns a cat). I haven't been at her cubicle in a while, so maybe it all changed. I guess I won't know until the next time I sneak in to do something...devious.
The more I think about it, the more I see how people try to block out the mundane and starkness of their workspaces. Look, work isn't meant to be fun. If it was, it would called Super Action Fun Time. It's not, it's called work, because it hurts just to say it. WORK. Your body rolls with the word as if pushing it out. So, pictures of loved ones, knick-knacks, even books or music helps to overcome the pain of being at your job. Sure, if you're a waiter, you don't have a work space, but you still keep something on you to help you get through the shift. I know a guy who works as a waiter (when not acting) at Vincent: A Restaurant. He really doesn't enjoy his job, but he carries a picture of his life partner with him to remind him of why he's doing it.
Maybe you agree with me, or maybe you don't. Everyone has their own way of coping with the drudgery of work. Sometimes we personalize our spaces to bring the outside world to our dark workspaces. Ever see The Simpsons' episode where Homer puts up all the pictures of Maggie to block the sign Burns put up? That's what we're doing. That's why people get upset when the boss says, "No personal items!" We want our worlds, our lives, to be with us. We want to be happy.
On a different note, I will be taking a short break from the ole blog (probably just until Monday, maybe Tuesday). I will return soon with more stories, thoughts, and the like.