Lessons in ego, humility and simplification…

Recently I had to change offices, as did my associate director. We moved from the first floor of our building, which is a house converted to office space, to the second floor.

I had been in the old office for 10 years. It was quite spacious, and had recently been painted a lovely color of blue that I picked out. Nantucket Fog to be precise, by Benjamin Moore. It had once been a porch and possibly sunroom of the house. It had pretty high ceilings, lovely windows and a back door that allowed both for easy access as well great cross breezes on a spring or fall day.

The two offices that we moved into are significantly different in size from each other. One was probably the master bedroom of the home back when it was used as a personal home. It is VAST. The second room is connected to it by a door, with a closet in between. The second room is smaller by more than half of the other office, and probably was used as a nursery or other kind of bedroom. There is a bathroom right outside this office.

When considering the needs of our office, and the fact that we were losing an outside space where we kept four large filing cabinets, it made sense that the filing cabinets go into the large office. That meant that whomever had that office would a) be looking at those cabinets all the time and b) would have to tolerate other people coming and going from the office as files were needed and then re-filed. Note: We are moving toward document imaging, SLOWLY, as a campus and someday may not need these cabinets, but for now we hold all 1500 awarded financial aid recipient’s files in them.

As the director I got to decide, with my boss’s approval of course, where to put whom. I decided that I could not be in the office with the file cabinets. I had spent the last 10 years in a space that was lovely, but I was constantly being interrupted because I was too close to the files, too accessible to the work study students, and the first stop most people made on the first floor when looking for our offices. Plus the small fridge for our office was in my office.

So I decided to take the smaller office, and put the associate director in the big office. I did offer him the option of swapping offices with our other staff member, who has an even smaller office, so he would be more secluded, but he made the choice to be in the big office.

My desk and the accompanying credenza/bookshelf thing was WAY too big to go into what was going to be my new office, so I decided to give it to my associate director. Anyone who is friends with me on FB or follows me on Twitter knows the drama I went through getting my new desk last week. But we are all moved in and settled. And the process of coming to terms with the move was interesting.

I don’t like change much. Never have. I found I was sad to leave my old office, and was kind of grieving the loss of it. Add to that the fact that when you walk into my associate director’s office, with the grand space and the big furniture, well, he looks like the director.

I will admit my ego struggled with this. My head said this set up is the right one for the use of the space and the needs of the office. I am more secluded, which will afford me more uninterrupted time to get my work done. But there is this weird thing that our society does to us, this thing that says we should have the biggest, best, shiniest, whatever thing it is we are talking about. And my brain went there at first. I found myself thinking “I should be in the big office, with the big furniture, looking important.”

Then I slapped myself across the face, figuratively speaking, and said stop being an idiot. It makes sense for us to be set up this way. And you don’t NEED the big desk, the big office. You ARE the director. The big office doesn’t make you the director. You like the small office and it’s cozy space. The big office has better window space for your plants, but you will work it out.

That is the one thing I have had to really come to terms with, the light in the new space. I really loved the light in the old office, and even in the big office. The light in my new space is like what you would expect in a smallish bedroom. But there ARE windows, which is more than some people can say about their offices, and I can open them, which is key.

But all in all I really had to have a talk with myself about what is important, check my ego at the door and be grateful for what I do have, which is a lovely, quiet, green space to spend 8+ hours a day in. It is better than a cubicle, that is FOR SURE. And if people think that my associate director is actually the director, maybe they will stop asking to speak to the director and take his answer as the final answer. I need to be grateful for what I do have, and not worry about status symbols and appearances. Because in the end, none of it really makes a difference.

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