This morning when I got into my car to drive to my office, I was afraid I might not remember the way. I haven’t gone to the office in two and a half months.
After the age of 29 I didn’t have an office that I went to every day. I had about a six-year stint as a stay-at-home mother. Then I began a 30-year career as a freelance writer and editor. Eventually we added an office for me to the back of our house. I then “went to the office” to work, even if that only meant walking through my family room. I did occasional contract work that required me to show up at a client’s office and work there, but mostly I worked from my home office.
When we retired, we moved 2,100 miles away and downsized from our 2,100 square foot house (that number includes my office but not the garage) to a 1,300 square foot unit (including the over-sized one-car garage) in a senior community. This is a two-bedroom unit, and I had to choose between a home office and a guest room in the second bedroom. Because we wanted to be able to have guests come to visit us in our new location, I was left without an office. Despite lining the wall of the combination dining room—living room in our new house with bookcases, there wasn’t enough space for all the books that my husband and I had both accumulated over a lifetime of reading.
Since I had a lot more books and work stuff than my now retired husband, the plan was to find a small office to rent where I could store my books and work. After nearly a year we finally found the ideal space and set off for Ikea to buy a desk and several bookcases. Once the furniture had been delivered, assembled, and installed, I unpacked my books, which had been filling up the garage, and got to work.
After a 30+-year career of avoiding both the academic and corporate worlds, I finally have a real office to go to.
“Going to the office” now means something quite different to me than it would have earlier in my life. I spent enough time going to an office in my early adult jobs and later contract work to know that I would not want to spend the majority of my life working like that. Staff meetings, the proximity of desks, crowded cafeterias, the semi-required socialization of after-work get-togethers all do not suit my introverted nature. And it’s not just that I like to be alone; I also work better alone, without the noise, movement, and other distractions of having a lot of people nearby. I feel certain that going to the office would have become something I both dreaded and hated if I had had to work like that all my life.
Now, in retirement, “going to the office” excites and invigorates me. My office is in a small building, and very little talking or movement goes on in the hallway. With my door shut, I’m able to work without distraction. Most of my books are here, and being surrounded by books has always comforted and inspired me. I had always wanted to shelve my books alphabetically by author, and the move allowed me to do that. Also, I now have separate sections for fiction and nonfiction.
I don’t ever have to go to the office; I go in when I choose to go. And now that my husband and I are traveling more than we did earlier in our lives, there are sometimes stretches, like the last two and a half months, when I’m not around to go to the office.
I realize that I’m very fortunate to have had my dream job of writing and editing from home most of my adult life. But now I’m enjoying going to the office—and sometimes not going.