Back to work?
During sixteen weeks of quarantine, I have returned to my office three times. The first two were brief visits specifically to pick up files and to move some things from my hard drive onto a virtual drive. Today was the first time I have actually planned a full day in my office. I was there from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Of course, it wasn’t as easy as me deciding, “Hey, I think I will go in today.” I had to ask permission a week ago from my supervisor who then had to get permission from the Vice President of our division. I had to check in at the police station and then have them meet me at the building. They unlocked the door to let me in, then locked it behind me.
There I was, alone in a gigantic performing arts center building on a college campus. Just me and nobody else. The feeling was rather eerie, honestly. Even in slower periods, like summer session or post-exam weeks in the rest of the year, there are always people around and activity happening. The building is not just theaters. It also houses classrooms, offices, and all of the specialized spaces to teach art, music, and theater.
Today the sound of my footsteps echoed in the vast atrium with no other sound. I shrugged off the strangeness and set myself up in my office. There was something oddly peaceful about being all alone in my office. It was the first time since mid-March that I had the chance to power up the computer and do actual “work” there instead of in my home office. I had saved up a large number of files to print – not wanting to waste my own printer ink knowing that the college will not reimburse for that.
With the exception of the printing, nothing there was any different than what I could accomplish at home. But I felt more productive there. I realized during the early afternoon that I was feeling productive largely due to the fact that I was finally somewhere different. It wasn’t the fact that it was my office. It was the fact that is wasn’t my house.
I have found that my creative process also works better for me outside of my home environment. For some reason, I just don’t have the ability to get into flow as easily at home as I do in other spaces. When writing fiction, for instance, I have found (prior to the pandemic) that I write best in coffee shops, bars, restaurants, museums, parks – anywhere that’s not my home.
So working from home during this pandemic had been somewhat stressful for me. I am easily distracted by all the things I would rather be doing at home, and a few of the things I don’t really like doing but need to be done (ironing, dusting, vacuuming, washing dishes, etc.).
This is not to say that I want to return to my office. The sheer stress of all the paperwork and permissions and drama just to get access to my building was enough to make me not want to return for a good long time. Still, I need to find ways to work remotely in a different way. I don’t know how others who have been forced into “home work” feel about this, but I have finally reached a kind of limit to it.
I told my therapist today that I finally realized I am bored. Dreadfully bored – by work and by the rest of my life. My passion feels like it’s there, but trapped under a big wooly blanket of some kind, struggling to escape and get some air. My one-day trip to my office today was both good and bad. Good because it felt nice to out and back to something familiar. Bad because now I realize that I must find other ways to achieve some novelty in my life – in my environment. I cannot keep struggling through this sense of pervasive ennui.
I have no idea what the solution might be, but I do know that isolation is not particularly sparkling at the moment.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.