The same day the #deskdiaries series was announced, I uploaded the following image to social media:
With a student population of three thousand, I am a one-woman show here in the Housing department. I felt it was necessary to show what student don’t see when they stop by my office. It’s the week after move-out, May term move-in is happening, and it’s the one week of the year that I do not have an assistant. Above the desk, I am welcoming, professional, and organized. Below the desk, the high heels are thrown aside and replaced with fuzzy kitty slippers, as I enjoy my makeshift foot rest.
This image was my reminder that self-care doesn’t have to be an extravagant goal or strategic process. It can be as simple as playful slippers that only you know about. There are many ways that the way you utilize, decorate, and organize your office space can support your wellness.
1. The only time I close my blinds is early in the morning when the sun is shining directly on my computer screen. Otherwise, I keep my blinds up so I can bask in the natural light and watch campus life unfold on long days of spreadsheets and emails.
2. The windowsill is lined with pictures of my husband, son, daughter, and dog. Displaying pictures of loved ones remind me to treasure and invest in life outside the office. They also provide a way to connect more personally with students and for them to see that there’s more to me than what’s on my name tag.
3. In the upper right corner, there’s a wooden plaque that says, “Resign as general manager of the universe.” – Larry Eisenberg. Displaying inspirational quotes is one way I stay focused on what really matters.
4. In the center, on the right, there’s a framed gift with notes of encouragement and praise from when I left my position at Baylor University. Those three years at Baylor that taught me that what I do is far more than a job. It is my calling; my purpose. Coworkers became family. Students became friends. Remember to hold on to mementos from the places and people that have shaped you along the way.
5. In the lower right corner is a fun Pinterest project of the state of Michigan with a heart around Grand Rapids. I was born and raised in Grand Rapids and the culture of grit, art, and sportsmanship is very much ingrained in who I am today. In a profession that is always preparing for the future, find ways to remind yourself where you’ve been.
6. The memo boards display charts and spreadsheets of important information that I refer to daily. Making information easily accessible allows for efficiency, which undoubtedly serves to lower my stress levels greatly. I also mix in pictures, quotes, and mementos to break up the plethora of information.
7. My diplomas are displayed in fun, unique picture frames. Working in student affairs, you understand when I say that my diplomas represent years of transformation, identity development, and growth. I absolutely would not be who I am today without my college experiences and I want to display them proudly.
8. The top of my desk looks like a tornado came through. It looks messy, but it’s actually organized. I know exactly where everything is. I’m assuming most of our desks look like this currently. I used to be paranoid about it but, a couple of years ago, I realized I was stressed about a messy desk only because I feared what other people thought about me. I’m over that now.
9. The black and white striped canvas to the far right is a quote by Maya Angelou. It says, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This leads me to the next photo…That painting was done by one of my former RAs. He came to my office, totally disheveled, during midterms and was fighting tears explaining that his professor had told him that the painting was unacceptable and he needed to start over. He explained that he spent six hours straight painting this piece and began crumpling it between his palms. I kindly asked if I could have it, as it seemed he was preparing to destroy it, but I enjoy art that isn’t perfect and I would love to display it on my wall. That was in my first job out of grad school and this painting has been in every office I’ve had since then. Bringing it full circle with the Maya Angelou quote above, I want to take every opportunity to empower and strengthen students. This painting keeps me in perspective, especially in a role that entails much policy enforcement, guidelines, deadlines, and endless opportunities to deny student requests. 10. In addition to more intentional decoration that reminds me who I am and where I’ve been, the other side of my office is where the magic happens. This is where I make sure I use the resources I have to be organized, efficient, and strategic. It’s not the warmest or most welcoming area of my office, which is why I chose the wall students don’t see when they walk in. I truly appreciate a good filing cabinet and white board because, no matter what chaos is happening at the desk, this corner of the office is ready for action.
Take a moment to look at your own office space. In what ways does your office space provide support in your pursuit of wellness, balance, and self-care?