Work Memories

In two days, I return to working in the downtown office a few days a week.

The last time I was in the office* was July, when I spent a week working from a vacant cube while my son was attending a science day camp downtown. Before that was March, when my coworker and my boss and I spent two days cleaning out our cubicles in preparation for a full renovation of multiple floors of our building.

Somehow, I failed to document the move-out either on my blog or on Facebook, so I had to dig into the Exist archives to find the last time I didn’t tag “work from home.”

18 March 2021: Mammogram this morning, then downtown to clean out cubes with N. Spent literally all day on my feet, cleaning and packing. Brought home a load of stuff today; going to get the rest Monday. Tweaked my back pulling the wagon with all my crap in it, so skipped Krav this evening.

23 March 2021: Final office clean-out day with N and CW (and O joined us for lunch). Diverted more stuff from the landfill to Goodwill. 

Over the course of those two days, I packed up and hauled multiple wagonloads of stuff to my car. At least one wagonload was destined for Goodwill, since I just couldn’t let so much perfectly usable stuff go to the landfill.

Now, some seven months later, my ADHD brain has finally decided that now is the time to go through the half-dozen tote bags and boxes that have been sitting in full view at the bottom of the basement stairs this whole time.

We’re not moving back to a freshened-up version of our old cubicles — rather, we’re on a completely different floor, with brand-new cubes and a brand-new floor plan and a brand-new team dynamic, with the majority of my co-workers permanently remote. So, we kind of know what to expect, since we’ve seen the layout of a similar floor… but it’s going to be Very Different from what we left. Much less storage space, much less room to spread out, and much less privacy. However, since there won’t be as many people in the office as every department on our floor is on a hybrid schedule, it’s likely to be calmer overall (if not actually quieter).

There are some things — cubicle shelves, file organizers, pen caddies — that I’m not sure whether my new cube will be large enough to accommodate. From the smaller items I’ve sifted through so far, I’ve filled a large tote bag with the first personal items I’ll attempt to unpack: mostly the little things that make my workspace feel like I belong there, like the flip-over sand globe with a quote about teamwork that I won in a raffle at my first job.

In amongst the typical desk stuff one accumulates over time, I also packed away some oddball items…

  • four casters in a plastic bag
  • small tin of mints printed with, “Nifty Nifty, David Claydon is Fifty,” complete with stale mints inside
  • a Dell laptop floppy drive
  • a wooden planter with attached leather handles, filled with small river rocks
  • a small padlock with no key
  • multiple staplers and tape dispensers
  • lots of empty three-ring binders
  • and more yet to be rediscovered…

The past couple of years have been an exercise in fluidity, accommodation, acceptance, and non-attachment.** Even though nothing will ever return to exactly as it was in The Before Times, going back to a designated place of work feels like a start.

My son gets his first pediatric dose of the vaccine tomorrow, and my husband and I get our boosters later this week. That’s a significant piece of the puzzle, too.

* Before the cleanout, I worked in the office for a single day in October 2020 as part of a planned Return To Worksite, but the return was cancelled the very next day due to our county being on Level Red for new COVID cases. Before that, I worked downtown for a week in July 2020 while my son was attending science camp. The last time I worked in the office as a part of my usual routine was Monday, March 16, 2020. My Exist summary of that day: “Connor had a great time at karate camp today! But karate is closed after today, so I’m working from home for the next few weeks. Broke the news to Connor about vacation and he was heartbroken.”

** Non-attachment is a Zen Buddhist philosophy of remaining open to multiple outcomes or views. As my former Zen teacher stated years ago, “One of the primary ways that we do great harm to ourselves and to those around us is by becoming attached to a particular view. ‘Attached’ here means a very specific thing: it means sort of an unexamined clinging that has almost a panting, desperate quality to it. The majority of these views, these opinions that we hold, are actually unknown to us, ironically enough. They’re more or less unconscious.”

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