A good old-fashioned purging

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

the pertinent portion of my desk

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.

Toy Story

I have a lot of things on my desk.

Oh of course I have the usual stacks of books, papers, sundry office supplies, pictures, etc. but in addition I have accumulated quite a few cute little desk decorations from one

Liberty Duck, Shakescat, Gargoyle, Cthulhu, and a few other friends in between

place or another.  There’s Shakescat (a gift from an old roommate), Baby Hatching Gargoyle (a gift from my grandmother when I opened my theatre company and she realized that our logo was almost exactly like this sculpture), chibi chtulhu (I made him.  He’s adorable.  Who doesn’t want an elder god on their desk?), statue of liberty duck (gift from my nearest and dearest), and, of course, a few requisite littlest pet shop sets.

Okay, fine, I admit to it.  I, as an adult, have purchased toys that I, as a child, would never have played with.  When we were kids, the littlest pet shop playsets were TINY (and probably all manner of choking hazards).  They also weren’t all that cute.  Have you seen them recently?  Now, they have big giant eyes.  Also, as far as I can tell, a sense of humor.  For instance: on my desk right now are a pirate parrot, a carrier pigeon in a mailroom, a cute little cow, and an owl in a library who wears glasses.

Now, I love my owl.  She’s adorable.  But she has this problem.  She doesn’t like to stay in her library.  She flies the coop at least three times a week, sometimes while I’m sitting at the desk.  I don’t really know what her end goal is other than SWEET SWEET FREEDOM


(…which I assume would be acquired if she ever got any further than the patch of desk just below her library… unfortunately, I’m pretty good at preventing owl escapes so she’s never seen the outside world).

I never really understood what her trouble was.  After all, she lives in a LIBRARY.  Why would she EVER want to leave?

…I’m getting to the place in the semester where I’m beginning to see her point.

I turned in my first PhD level paper the other week (in Chicago style, a first for me, and with pretty pretty diagrams!).  The sense of accomplishment I should have felt at plonking that stack on the professor’s desk was, unfortunately, dwarfed by the knowledge that this was only one down…. There were still two lurking on my own desk waiting for their share of my rapidly dwindling attention.

So here I am.  Stuck in this library.  Looking yearningly to the world that I know awaits

my first PhD level paper!

outside.  I leave on Thursday for a two-week vacation and, by that time, all of my coursework for my first semester of the PhD will be completed.  By that time, I will have shrugged the weight of these papers from my back.  By that time, I will be able to sleep soundly knowing that the pages are tucked in to good hands and awaiting critical commentary.  By that time, I will be done done done.

And it will be time to take off my glasses, and leap bodily out of the library.  Alright, owl, maybe you have a point.  There’s a time for reading, and there’s a time for liberating, and right now I smell that beauteous odor of freedom wafting through the open door.  A few more days… just a few more days.