Today was a tough day at work. Brutal, in fact, and it had nothing to do with my students. If you asked me what I hate most about my job, it would be 1) grading, 2) administrative crap that I don’t have time for and doesn’t seem to have any value for what I do in the classroom, and 3) the sheer number of interactions this introvert is required to have that make me want to run screaming into the book room to hide under a dusty pile of books where no-one will ever, ever look for me.
Today was pretty darn bad in the #2 and #3 categories, but this blog is about me writing and finding something positive that way, so what I’ve decided to do is write something that I’ve assigned my students to write. We’re reading The House on Mango Street right now, and I give them a list of prompts to choose from to get started on writing their own personal vignettes about their lives. It’s easy for English teachers to assign creative or personal writing, but I try to do at least 1 or 2 of my own assignments each year to keep it real: to remember how hard it can be, how random the creative process can feel, and how its rewards can surprise us.
So with no further ado, I’m choosing this prompt: “Describe one place that makes you feel safe and secure and one place that makes you feel awkward and insecure.”
For today, I’m going to focus on the latter, and I choose my office space at work. Here goes.
Our desks pile up on top of each-other, staking their zigzag claims across the industrial tiles, stretching their paper-weighted elbows into the air, nudging and necking as they compete to be seen and surveyed. I can hear them groaning under their breaths, laden with dust and aging photographs and crayoned scribbles that scream the ways that we are loved and love outside of this space we must be in for too much of our day. I see them settle, resigned to their duties of holding things up and holding things in, of containing the lists and notes and research and plans that promise there is a time and a place where hope and promise will bloom into a vibrant spring.
There are signs of that spring too: the niches of thank you cards and homemade gifts and snippets of sonnets and songs that they tuck away into tight drawers or display proudly on bulletin boards too quickly overwhelmed with notices and policies and reminders that only remind us how deep we are in. Among the sanitizer sprays and outdated lotions and just-in-case supplies of aspirin, Midol, tic tacs, bandaids and coughdrops that crowd their corners, the desks hold on tightly to these scattered scars of past inspiration, forever looking forward and marching on, sometimes a day at a time, sometimes just a block at a time, to the clean spring sweep that will surely come.
In the meantime, they make room for the small chocolate comforts–and the collegial camaraderie that sometimes floats down from their assigned owners, gentle and buoyed as leaves from a tree. Bruised and with broken locks, the keys long since lost by careless prior owners, the desks connive and collect in huddled masses, leaning on or straining away from each-other depending on what the day and dust collects. While the desks prop the coffee cups and textbooks calling our name, the chairs sigh as they swish and droop, sagging under cardigans, scarves, and the chore of holding us up. When the lights go out and the door is locked, the desks and chairs ease gracelessly into the night, like abandoned campsites in winter, watching and waiting for us to return.