A friend of mine recently posted a retrospective of the ‘typical’ office desk as it has changed over the last 30 years. It got me thinking about how what I do and why I do it has changed over the last 30 years.
I graduated highschool in 1986, 30 years ago. In 1986 I was expected to get a job, find a husband, buy a house, have some kids and blend into a suburban life. Post-secondary education was not on the radar in my family sphere but I bucked that trend and went to university, albeit it took me 5 years to do so.
Living on my own, my first ‘home office’ was in the unfinished basement by the hot water heater, furnace and washing machine. Half the desk top was cluttered with my art supplies. I remember writing term papers on my electric typewriter. In my second year of university I got a computer and I was able to word process. Aside from finishing the last term paper and graduating university, this is how my life stayed for the longest time. All my best laid plans sat in a dark corner of the basement gathering dust.
For the past 20 years my life has been more concerned more with my pay cheque and benefits and less with my dreams and ambitions.
Things have finally changed. What I want and what I will accept from both work and my free time has changed. I care a whole heck of a lot less about my pay cheque than I do about meaningful work. To be fair, my husband makes a good living so my priority shift is being financed by his desire to see me happy. We both choose to prioritize happiness and meaning for both of us, he just got there before me.
When I quit my government job to go back to school full time I made a conscious break. I re-trained for something new. I hated the old box. Hated being a cog in the big wheel. Hated the corporate speak. Hated the long sentences short on meaning. Hated, hated, hated, HATED every minute of it.
I loved my second round of term papers, and was giddy about my plan to reemerge into a world of meaningful, fulfilling employment. I got a contract right away and at the end I had a chance at full time employment, but I let it go.
It turns out it wasn’t just the type of work (although it absolutely was the way they did the work), it was the work environment as well. Seriously, who the hell can be happy in a drab cubicle with no access to natural light for 7 hours?
Since letting that opportunity go I have applied for a few jobs. The few interviews I have had haven’t gone well because I chafed during them. I bloody hate the interview. I think I am just refusing to say what I know they want to hear. Three times now on my way out my interviewer has said “Thanks for your candor”. I’m pretty certain that’s code for “you went off our script”. Off script is good. It doesn’t equate to out of control, it equates to exploring new possibilities and thinking on your feet. The person who eventually hires me will want a person who thinks, and thinks a lot.
I have found some odd work here and there, and have lent my skills to some not-for-profit organizations. Oddly enough I communicate better with them because I think I just respect them more because they live outside the box by their very nature.
Long story short, I’m not working right now.
I’m OK with that because tof what has changed. I will work. But I will not work in a box. I will be creative. I will take risks. I will make a difference. I will have access to natural light.
So that’s it, 2016 and 47 years of chasing ideas from a dingy, dark, dusty second hand desk wedged in a corner next to a furnace to this:
I think it’s an improvement. Certainly the office politics have improved. I think 2016 bodes well for outside the box.