Thursday, June 07, 2007

Big Sickness, Little Sickness

As of this month, I am now officially back at work full-time. In one sense, this is pretty arbitrary, as academics work odd hours and cycles over weekends and "holidays" at the best of times; and over the last few months I've submitted a grant application, given two conference papers, eight lectures and done bits and pieces of other writing. But given that returning to regular work filled me with terror and anxiety just a few weeks ago, this week has been much less traumatic than I feared. On the other hand, I did come down with a head cold, so I only spent my first day back in the office today.

In line with my post-illness resolutions about looking after myself and not pushing myself beyond reasonable limits, I stayed home on Monday night instead of going to the Medieval Round Table, but I'm pleased to report that it didn't develop into a full cold. I think my new regime of a daily walk, more fruit and vegetables, less meat and pretty much only the one glass of red wine a day, plus a goodly amount of crystallised ginger as a "treat" must be doing good things to my immune system. And the evening primrose-oil-plus-fish-oil capsules that are supposed to help with the hot and cold flushes. Hmm, it's probably the fish oil, actually.

It was clear to me that I was back at work today for a whole day, rather than a flying visit, as I treated myself to lentil soup from the lebanese food stall in the union, and as I determined to re-arrange the furniture in my office. I'd always had the desk facing the windows, or at right-angles to them, but for the first time in my life I'm now going to sit behind the desk and face people as they come into the room, with the desk at right angles to the door in the opposite corner. I'd always thought it was more friendly to students not to sit behind a desk, but Claire, who helped me move my very rickety desk, says it's better feng shui this way, and that it's awkward for other people to come into the room, or walk past it, and see my back (I often have the door open when I'm in). It feels very grown-up to sit behind the desk. But from my new position, I can still look out the window and see the big plane trees. This also means I no longer look out on the university's enormous promotional banner "The Evolution Starts Here" strung across the bridge between the two towers of my building. This is a Good Thing.

When I'm in next week, I'm going to take in a plant or two; and perhaps buy a little carpet. Anyway, something to mark a difference between the old life at work and the new.

Right now, I have to finish my conference paper on Brian Helgeland and Bryce Courtenay, which is late because I've been writing a little piece on cancer and this very blog for The Sunday Age. Melbourne readers, you have been warned...

But how do other people sit in their offices? Behind the desk? Or with their back facing the door? Or with the desk at right angles to the door?

13 comments:

J J Cohen said...

I didn't start to sit behind a desk that faces outward towards the door until I became department chair -- then I had to, because the office is too small to arrange any other way. I partially solved the problem of having a Hadrian's Wall between me and my interlocutor by placing the desk at an angle that slants away from the door. This slightly askew arrangement is somewhat disconcerting to those who sit in front of me, though, because it makes them feel a little off balance. That's not such a bad thing!

WhatLadder said...

My department is housed in a reasonably new building with scary conformist furniture so that all desks are along the wall, and no moving of furniture is allowed. Our Dean, who is very strict, comes and inspects the offices twice a year to make sure there has been no unauthorised moving of furnitures, and no accumulation of flamable material (i.e. books and papers). We may hang pictures, but only if we get an authorised picture hanging person to come and put the approved picture hanging device on the wall.

Pavlov's Cat said...

I decided fairly early in my academic days that 'friendly' wasn't the relationship that was necessarily always required with students, so I used to try to set up the furniture in such a way as to be able to choose between 'friendly' (me in a chair away from the desk with no barrier between me and the student(s) or other visitor(s)) and 'more official and authoritative' (me firmly behind the desk), depending on the situation and the people. As a young female academic (many years ago now, Grasshopper) I habitually had authority challenges from two particular student demographics: men of my own age and women of my mother's age. No surprises there.

There are lots and lots of factors in the desk thing, including where the power plugs are, where the window is, and how much computer-related equipment one has in one's office. If, like me, one is a messy person, one needs a flat space in front of one to spread stuff out on.

And many years ago when I was tutoring an ex-biker-club president in jail (him not me), he taught me never to sit with my back to the door, a piece of advice that has, both literally and metaphorically, stood me in good stead ever since.

Philip said...

I am thinking of you under these new geometrical circumstances, Stephanie, and it pleases me (even without taking into account your necessary avoidance of - eek! - Evolution).

The Sunday Age is also good news.

Carolann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
christina said...

Dear Stephanie. Hi I have left messages all over the place and you probably won't even remember me which does not matter because I remember you! So sorry to hear about the cancer which hopefully has been and gone now. I had to start my own blog and accidentally pressed "Publish" and now it is out there. Pretty scarey. It is called Older woman or Christina-older woman. Couldn't think of anything else at such short notice. have to go. Grandson waiting to be put to bed. take care Christina kavanagh

Stephanie Trigg said...

JJC, WL and PC, I'm lucky enough to have an office with enough space for some more comfy low chairs and a coffee table, for the more friendly type of chat, and for meetings, too. When I've got it arranged to my satisfaction, I'll post a photo. The desk on an angle is completely radical, JJC! And yes, getting pictures put up and getting extension cords for the ethernet cable, etc. is a major hassle.

PC, sadly there are fewer and fewer women of our mothers' age (or should I say, our age?) in the student body now...

Hi Philip; thanks for writing: I must link to your blog...

Christina, welcome to the blogosphere!

Nici said...

Dear Stephanie, so shocked to see your face in the paper, so sad to read of the year you've had.

I sit in an open plan office these days, with my back to blinding northerly views of the city.
My desk is on an awkward angle on a corner of a tower and I see people coming from all directions. I like it that way.

I understand exactly what you mean about the lost boy from Balywn. After news reports like that, my boys say ''are you crying mum?'' because they always expect me to be bawling about an over-empathised moment.

much love, Nici.

Philip said...

Warm thanks for the link, Stephanie!
xx

maria said...

Dear Stephanie, what a wonderful piece in the Sunday Age, a lot of my friends and family read it and said to wish you all the very best. Funnily enough, it also inspired a 'teaching moment' of my own as I had to explain to my Eastern European grandparents what a blog actually was ('like a journal... but public... on the internet...no, not a person! etc) but they thought the tangible, hard copy version was beautiful and very powerful.
All the very best, Maria.

Bwca said...

I read The Age feature and am just swinging by because you also read one of my favorite blogs Pavlov's Cat.
I understand what you are going through as my friend has experienced it all too.
She is now safely beyond her Tamoxifen phase and you will come out the other end too.
Very best wishes for your full recovery, much love and peace to you from me.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Nici! Hi!! how lovely to hear from you! How are the twins? and Romona? Your office sounds rather grand, I must say...

Maria, thanks to you and your family for these good wishes; the kindness of friends and strangers has made this year so much easier to bear.

BWCA, glad to hear your friend has come through: Tamoxifen seems to be a very powerful and efficacious drug, but I have heard of some women not having much fun under its regime. Thanks for your good wishes.

Lisa said...

Used to share a room with a Chinese colleague and she insisted on facing the door even though it meant putting her back to our whiteboard where most of the discussion goes on. Feng shui or just that it makes sense to do what is feels both more natural for the room's occupant and visitors.