Monday, January 05, 2009

Sometimes I miss my office

Who am I kidding? I ALWAYS miss my office.

Late last April, I left a reporting job I’d been at for almost 3 years. It was my first—and most likely only—job with an office.

And it was great. Who wouldn’t happily abandon cubicle-land for their own office? I had a window. With a view of….the side of Union Station!! Woo hoo! And if I squished the left side of my face up to the window and craned my neck, I could look up First Street and see the Capitol dome. Or, closer by, the every-other-week convergence of emergency vehicles for yet another unattended package in the train station. And who could forget the summer of striking, chanting, workers and their giant inflatable rat?

Bnd it wasn’t just the view. I could hang some nice pictures, turn my music up pretty loud (actually I sometimes used to do this in cubicles too), put my feet up on my desk, and shop online without looking over my shoulder. In short, I had a DOOR. Pretty damn handy. Because even in at a company with a “nap room” and all sorts of wellness programs, lying down on the floor to meditate (and no that’s not a euphemism for sleep) in a cubicle is pretty awkward.

The office was also a place to let out the crazy. And that was part of the problem, really. Not so much the office itself, but my state of mind.

When I came to that job I was fleeing a really bad place. A really really bad place. For eight months, my boss made it her mission in life to tell me all the ways in which I sucked. So, I was feeling kinda…shaky. My former editor didn’t like to edit. So I obsessed over my choice of words. The thing is, when you’re so afraid of the wrong words, eventually the right ones don’t come either. My writing became, to put it not-so-delicately, constipated. And at my new job I started experiencing this really weird form of post-bullying-PTSD. As I nervously began to learn the ropes, I half expected someone to burst through my brand new office door and point their finger, “j’accuse-style,” shouting, “IMPOSTER! You are obviously not a reporter! Or a writer! Go now—and hang your head in shame!”

They didn’t, obviously. But you get the idea.

I started having trouble with deadlines. I’d always been a procrastinator, but I’d also made my deadlines. And my copy was good. But suddenly it became a struggle.

Ah, Depression, my old friend. Come in. Shut the (office) door behind you.

But I had a good boss. And I was working my way through my issues.

Then we got a new boss. And everything started to slide again.

Our new boss was…mercurial, is the best way to put it, I guess. Suddenly everything had to change, RIGHT NOW. And then it had to change AGAIN, right now. Deadlines? Deadlines were random, moving targets.

My office had now become my Fortress of Freakitude. As in my place to go to freak out, rant, rave and just generally break down. Whispered bitch-sessions with co-workers. Frantic calls to my therapist. Breaking out the Valium. It was ON, bitches.

I would (yet again) kick depression’s ass. I would meet my deadlines. But it wasn’t enough. Not for this boss.

And so I hid again, trying not to be accused of, among other things, talking too much. Which led to ridiculous email exchanges like this one, with my friend and co-worker, Amy.

ME: “Wanna go over to McDonald’s to see if they have Shamrock shakes?!”

AMY: “OMG! I’ve been thinking about that exact thing all day.”

ME: “OK. But I can’t risk being seen on your end of the hall. And you probably shouldn’t be seen down here….”

AMY: “Meet by the elevators again?”

ME: “See you in 2 minutes.”

Skulking about for a Shamrock shake? Is this really what it had come to?

I was all but recovered. In fact, the only barrier to my mental health was my job. In a continuation of the (somewhat disturbing) trend of music from Grey’s Anatomy as soundtrack of my life, I couldn’t get, “This is your life. Are you who you want to be?” out of my mind.

So in the end, the office had to go. My view, my door, my work (which I really loved), my always interesting interviews—none of it was enough.

I’m back in a cubicle. I work in a suburban office park, so the view, if I had one, would be less than thrilling. No door, virtually no privacy.

No breakdowns.

And the right words? I think they’re back….

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