For all of my career, whenever I’ve started a new job, I have not waited long to set up my workspace. Usually, I’ve done this within my first month. I started a new job in September, and this time I waited, just over four months to be exact. And that was probably about three months too long, but, of course, I didn’t realize that until after I decorated my office.
I didn’t realize until after my office was decorated and organized how much the barrenness in which I had worked for four months had bothered me. It wasn’t until my walls had something to break up the white monotony and the shelves were full of pictures of the people who make up my world that I could settle in and feel comfortable in the space, and to some extent, in my new role. I walk in now, and I’m greeted with the smiling faces of those I love, reminders of travel that changed my life, and awards that recognized my past successes. I walk in now and I am finally “home” at work.
Note: The rest of this post discusses my office and why it’s decorated the way it is, which may or may not interest you. You’ve been warned.
For the better part of 20 years, I had the same posters on my office walls, the same decorations, and the same books on the shelves. There was a comfortable familiarity about the items, but I knew that it was time for a change. Initially, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to decorate the L-shaped, windowless office that I inhabit in the Katz Building at Penn State, where I work in alumni relations for Penn State Law and School of International Affairs.
Gradually, as I stared at the blank walls and empty shelves in my new space, I began to have a vision for this office. I decided that it would be personal in a way the others had not. For the first time, I would use my photographs–ones taken on my travels–to decorate my office. Choosing was difficult. While I am a professional photographer of people, I also am an avid travel photographer for my own enjoyment, and I generally take thousands of photos each vacation. I spent several weeks going through pictures from various domestic and international trips and initially came up with a random set of images that were favorites. I envisioned having a grouping of about 8 to 10 of these images on the wall above my desk. When I reviewed the folder of images I’d selected, I realized that having a group of images from many geographically disparate and visually different places was going to lack cohesion and visual unity. So I changed my criteria.
I decided the wall the big enough for 8 images (this is a matter of opinion, for my minimalist boss has declared it “cluttered”) in two sets of four. One set, in black and white, were taken at Mont Saint-Michel, one of the most stunning places I have ever visited and one that took root in my soul. I long to return. The other set of four are scenes of town life in Europe, two from Assisi, Italy and two from Bayeux, France, that, I think, capture well the serenity I felt in those places.
The wall above my desk, with pictures that feed my soul
The other choices were easier. The wall next to the door would feature a set of bird photographs that I had taken.
Then “around the corner” on a wall that really is only seen by me is a poster and four lyrics prints from my favorite band, Elbow, a British alternative rock band. Their lyrics are poetry, so I guess this is really my poetry corner.
Finally, I have filled my built-in shelves with pictures of my nearest and dearest. And some books on grammar/editing and alumni relations made the cut, as did a few awards. But for me, this space is really all about the people. I love having them in my office with me.