When I’m in a new environment—any environment—I am usually hyper aware of how I fit in with the little ecosystem that surrounds me. This is definitely a sign of my Enneagram 3 personality hard at work. I try not to disrupt the established norms, I play by the rules, and keep my eyes open for all the nuanced and unspoken social cues. Every little world, after all, has its own unspoken norms.
Our teaching assistant office is a great example of this “little world made cunningly”—a group office with shared desks, computers, and towering shelves. It’s a scene of transience if ever there was one, what with its perpetually shifting inhabitants and its yearly fall renewal. Both a place of work and a home for daily community, its always-in-flux conditions have left the “design” component of the room a tad drab.
And so, little chameleon that I am, I’ve always adapted to the drab, embraced the drab, and (I’m really ashamed of this one) contributed to the drab.
But no more. I am entering my fourth year teaching in the department, and, since I’m looking at three more years of work to become “Dr. Bailey Parker,” it’s time to nest. I’m putting down my decorative roots. The drab is done, finally exiled from my little hutch in the office.
In my own private spaces, I announce my occupation with little trinkets and images—photographs, baubles, tea mugs, pretty books, and flowers. I love a space littered with icons, windows to something grand and distant. This has always been the case in my workspace at home, but I’ve kept the flair to a careful minimum in the shared office. Not everyone loves the flair, I supposed.
I supposed wrong—my friends and colleagues are mostly unaffected by my flair. (It’s not like I’m decorating everyone else’s desks with cut-outs of Guinevere, fairy dust, or illustrations from The Faerie Queene; I have healthy boundaries.) There’s nothing wrong with occupying a space that’s yours, even when it’s on display for all to see. I’m convinced of this when I remember how much I loved visiting professors’ offices in college that were completely bedazzled with literary paraphernalia—as if the decorative work we miss out on by not having a set classroom distills to fill up our offices. I’ll admit, my great regret of not teaching high school is that there’s no classroom to decorate; the office will have to do.
At the start of this new school year, I’m resolving to embrace the icons, the trinkets, and the flair with gusto and pride. So watch out, dear officemates; the flair grows.