Friday, June 22, 2007

Location, Location, Location

The old real estate adage? Totally true. While we're all interested in a living space that is aesthetically pleasing from the inside, the experience of living in it is to a large extent determined by one's neighborhood: what's within walking distance, who else lives there, the noise levels, traffic, etc. And what goes for houses/apartments holds true for offices as well.

I just moved from my old office to my new office. I've spent the last two days placing bookshelves, unpacking books and files, and I'm on to making a list of what I need to decorate the place. Despite the fact that it's in total disarray right now, I'm suffused with a deep sense of peace and well-being in the new space; it's the equivalent of a great big "ahhhhhh." That has something to do with the space itself, no doubt. The building is old, but was recently renovated, so the walls are clean and painted (unlike old office). The space has a jot of architectural interest--moldings, a casement window, a french door into the closet/back room. I could give or take the carpet, but compared to the scarred and sloping hardwood of my old office, it's definitely an upgrade. There's an added bonus that it has a few built in shelves and more wall space, which means I can fit more books AND can hang a few pictures.

There are the interior aesthetics, which are definitely important. The overall well-being in the new space, however, is coming from the neighborhood. I'm not so terribly far from my old office. It's a new building, sure, but it's within spitting distance of the old. But my new neighbors are a much different crew than my old ones. When I first arrived at Askesis as a fresh-faced new hire, I was put into the office across the hall from the grande dame of the department. I attribute this to nothing but good intentions on the part of the faculty; I would have many questions and would want to be by someone who was in her office at every hour of the day and who knew everything about the institution. It was like moving in next door to the widow who rules the block--she knows all the kids' names, what exactly the garbage men will pick up, and when the previous owners of your house had their roof fixed last. That relationship is great at first; you have questions and you know who to go to for answers. At some point, however, you get acclimated to your neighborhood. You meet your neighbors and form your own relationships with them; you develop an understanding with various city workers; you know how you want to renovate your house, regardless of what was done to it in the past. Here, the widow has two choices: she can accept your autonomy, as long as you remain respectful of her experience and expertise; or, she can use the tools at her disposal (block parties, association meetings, back-fence gossip, property lines, etc.) to delimit what you can do without asking for her approval. [Many of you are literary scholars. You work out the metaphor.]

As far as I know, my new neighbors are also semi-new occupants of the building. There's little accumulated history, few expectations about doing things the way it's always been done in the neighborhood. That, in and of itself, is worth its weight.

A final word about location: my old office was at the head of the stairs, which meant that I fielded every question from every student who couldn't find an office, who was looking for one of my colleagues who wasn't around, who wanted information about a club, a requirement, or even a grammar check (not a joke!). My new office: upstairs, at the very end of the long, narrow hallway. You have to work to get there, and I'm seriously considering laying down some additional obstacles (quicksand, a moat, etc.). You all, of course, are welcome to visit anytime. Watch out for alligators...



Blogger Sisyphus said...

Ooh ooh! Crown molding! Doors! Fancy windows! I drool.

I dunno. Your story shows that the neighborhood is important but I've always responded to a nice interior way more than the outside surroundings.

Being a lazy bookworm who never goes outside may help.

Friday, June 22, 2007 6:54:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Typing from my office as we speak, which is as quiet as the grave. Nice on the inside, and nice on the outside. Bliss! Let's call it a draw...

Sunday, June 24, 2007 12:29:00 PM  

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