It has happened again that I have moved into another office. This time, however, was not simply relocating across a campus; instead, it was relocating off of that campus entirely. The anxiety about non-renewal I voice in an earlier pieceNote ended up being validated; I was not invited to teach at Schreiner again for the Fall 2017 term, and so I ended up moving out of AC Schreiner 207. The fact that I had not extended so much of myself into the space ended up being an advantage, as having unpacked less meant I had less to pack up–but it was still quite the chore to move boxes and boxes of books from the office down stairs and to my car.
Where they went to was not another academic office, as such. I yet retain my cubicle at DeVry University in San Antonio, to be sure, but I keep there only what I need to teach there–which is not much. A few textbooks, a style manual, and some assorted paperwork remain in place, largely so I need not carry things back and forth, but I am not on the DeVry campus enough to need to have more things present. I am, however, able to have an office in my home at long last, something for which I have hoped for a long time. Even if it is not my imagined ideal–and it is not, to be sure–it is a great comfort to me, and I am able to do quite a bit because I have it.
The new office occupies most of one end of my home, taking up what was a bedroom; the closet in it gives away its original function. It is a smallish room, some ten feet by ten, perhaps, and it sports only a single window that I generally keep blinded and curtained against the often-intense Hill Country sunlight. (Being at the end of the house, its ventilation is not as forceful as it might be, and keeping the sun out helps keep it bearable. An ever-running oscillating fan does, too.) A large wooden shelf left by a previous occupant currently graces one wall and holds up things I have been given or have gotten for myself over years of being a nerd; it rises over bookshelves my father helped me build and that hold other evidence of my decades-long nerdiness. It is a place in my home, one in which I need not worry that I am the person I am, and so I can afford to extend that part of myself into the outside world, to allow it to be embodied and displayed.
At the same time, though, I have to acknowledge it as a problematic space. I’ve not got my honors and awards on the walls as I did in other offices I’ve had, so the strange tension of justified pride and insecurity I’ve addressed elsewhere is not present–or it is at least less pronounced than it has been. But it is circumscribed by its smaller size; I still have not been able to unpack many of the books I would have in it, nor yet other pieces of writing that I might like to have ready to hand. And the furnishings I have in it, cobbled together from pieces inherited from one place or another, remind me that I am in a makeshift space. My identity as a scholar has been confirmed as contingent by the circumstances of my employment; a full-time continuing position in academia does not seem to be available to me, although I continue to work part-time at DeVry, and I may be picking up some teaching work at another university in a coming term. My contingency, my slap-dash and partial existence as a scholar is reinforced by the haphazard nature of my office’s accoutrements, though; I work in the room, and I am glad that my family allows me the room, but I am reminded by that room of what I have lost–and what I might have had.
Still, it is what I have, and it is allowing me to assert again the identity I have had at my root these many years. I got into scholarship in large part from having done–and desiring to do more of–what Mark Edmundson calls for in his 2009 Profession piece “Against Readings”; I entered the scholarly life in part because I had befriended texts and wanted to be a better friend to them. (I also entered it because of failure, in some senses, but I’ve discussed that elsewhere.) I made my attempt at participating in academe because I have always been a lover of reading, and I remained at that attempt longer than I ought to have because I had become by then a lover of writing. Having the office I have now, troubled as it may be, is allowing me to move back into the warm embrace I once knew and am only beginning to realize had been achingly absent from my life; it is filling a hole I had not known had been dug in me and through me. And I think it shows in that I seem to be doing more scholarship and better from the ragged edge of academe than I did while I was trying to burrow deeper into it, worming through the pages to arrive at some putative core that I do not know is even there anymore.
How long I will be in the present office is unclear to me; I seem to be going through them more and more rapidly, anymore. I can hope, however, that I will have the opportunity to set it as I would have it, so far as the room allows, and to get something out of seeing inside myself. For if the office I have is an extension of myself into the outside world, it must surely show something about me; I can hope that it will be something worth seeing.
I am not writing this as a sample for students so much as for my own need to carry forward an idea I have played with for some time. As such, I am not worrying as much about the formal demands of scholarly citation as I might otherwise do. Return to text.