Friday, February 22, 2013

A Change of Scenery

Friends, let me pour you a delicious glass of w(h)ine.

I took this really, really awesome editing job last spring, and simultaneously more or less threw the towel on full-time PhD devotion. I was feeling, at the time, that while my research was interesting to me (and maybe to my supervisor -- though surely out of charitable soupcon of affection toward yours truly), I didn't really envision a career in academia, which really seems to require one to be at least Mildly Extroverted (which I am not). So I scuttled away from full-time education, and started this gig -- which seemed tailor-made for a nose-in-book dork like me -- on a deliriously high note.

The job is good. It pays well, okayyyy, and I have spectacular colleagues. But the physical environment of my office is KILLING me. We work in 5-foot-high-walled "pods," with four workstations to a pod. For most of the day, I have my back turned to my three podmates. Our pod (and my workstation, in particular) faces the main artery of traffic on the floor, so people are constantly walking by. Or stopping in. The floor that I work on contains four such pods, so 16 pod peeps all together, and on one side of our pod, there is another organization's lunch room. Yeah. Lunch. Room. Next to a pod full o' editors.

There is no privacy, and goddamn, it's noisy! Of course it is! We have 20-30 people prowling the same carpetless, high-ceilinged office space at any given time. People cough, sneeze, or enjoy their lunches, and I literally want to Punch Them in the Face.

And so all this Frazzling of my Delicate Nerves has me longing for the richly quiet solitude of my PhDery and my home office. Where I had the space, the time, the luxury of thinky-thoughts and privacy. Or of the on-campus office that I shared with four other colleagues. Granted, it was a small space, but it was ours. And we could close the door, and we could be collegial (mostly) and make jokes about undergrads who use words like "irregardless" (always) but we also respected the quiet time that each of us needed to do our work.

I know that chums (perhaps even some of those reading here) will want me to buck up, and maybe ask the powers that be (each of whom has a nice office with full-height walls and a real door that closes!) for a room of my own. I tried that, on the heels of reading Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, I thought that this was maybe a "thing" that semi-thinky people would respect. Nerrrp.

If it's too Controversial for me to have an office of my own, I asked, could I at least have some kind of "hush" room where I can work when the noise level is unbearable? (There are a gazillion empty offices in this building!) Fuggeddit. Or perhaps, in this, the twenty-first century, surely I could work from home, even once a week? Especially given the fact that I drive so very, very far to be here? Clearly, the strength of 2.5 university degrees and a part-time job that I do entirely from my home office demonstrate that I can capably telecommute? Nayyyy, sucka.

All of which leaves me feeling less like an educated, valued editor, and more like a monkey who must drown out the sounds of the other animals at the zoo in order to follow someone's skewed version of the rules of editing.

I thought, at the time, that coming here was the right decision. We are, in fact, moving closer to this-city-that-employs-me later this year, and I am still very much excited about the prospects. And I don't entirely regret the transition from academia to the worky-world... but surely, there is a place for a Quiet Nerd to Get Along? I'm looking forward to a change of scenery.


  1. Oh, I hear ya, sister. I went from an office with a thick door in a quiet corner to cube land. I wear headphones when I need to concentrate. Which is almost all the time.

  2. Thanks, Meg! I made heavy use of a pair of crappy headphones this week and felt a lot better about the worky world listening to Songza playlists--kind of like a mental change of scenery. I mean, how awful can you feel with James Brown in your ears?