Over the weekend I cleaned off my desk.
We’re not talking about a superficial re-piling like I’ve been doing over the course of the semester; we’re talking full-fledged move everything, wipe down under it, file all papers, put things in their proper places sort of clean. The kind of clean that leaves one with that warm, squeaky, shiny feeling. The kind of clean that lets you know that one series of projects has been completed and another is due to start. The kind of clean that’s well and truly food for the academic soul.
There was a great amount of catharsis which went with this cleaning. Certainly on a superficial level my papers had been piling up since September and really needed to be moved off of my little rack thing and into some more permanent storage solution. But along with those papers went the deeper feeling of satisfaction. Yes, I made it. And more than that, I can wrap up all the loose ends and have a desk that’s fresh and ready for something new.
I sorted, I vacuumed, I recycled. I tidied, I stacked, I neatened. And, by the end of it, I was feeling less cluttered in the mind and more ready to take on what was next (a polish of the paper I gave at CDC for submission to their publication Text & Presentation and an abstract for submission to ASTR’s Shakespeare in Performance workgroup).
I also realized that I have a whole lot of desk toys and maybe I should consider cutting
back on the random things that I put in my work area to remind myself of sundry other things. But every time I consider curbing my collection of desk doo-mah-hickeys, I inevitably get wrapped in the sentimentality which caused me to hang onto them in the first place. How could I move my favorite childhood toy horse, or my jumbo-the-stress-elephant? How could I banish my littlest pet shop creatures which saw me through my six-month-stint in a cube farm? How could I even think of moving desk-thulu, or shakes-cat, or jojo the fluffy tribble? And don’t even mention the possibility of culling my rubber ducks. Every single one on my desk was given to me by a close friend, and thereby has deep emotional significance.
The bottom line is, my desk is my home base. This is where I come to work, this is where I (basically) live. The state of my desk is indicative of my mental state; is it tidy? Is it a wreck? Are there fifteen million things on it? How are those things stacked; neatly or haphazardly? Are there documents waiting for me in my printer tray? When I feel like my desk is out of control, I feel like my life is out of control. My desk is the first and last line of defense against mental breaks and it’s something very real, very tangible, and very large. I visit it every day. It’s my altar of academia. It’s my corner of the Ivory Tower. Perhaps most importantly, it’s an extension into the physical realm of everything that goes on in my head. The things upon it, whether they be permanent desk ornaments or temporary passing-through papers, are the things within my mind. My desk is a physical manifestation of the crazy, wild, tempestuous happenings of the inner monologue and must be treated as such.
…and god help you if you touch my rubber duckies.