Category Archives: Work

Week 38: Work from a cubicle


Bet you thought I’d gone and joined the circus. While that thought is interesting and will merit an hour of reflection, let me quell the rumors and say, I’m still here.

That done, let me get on with Week 38. I’m writing this on an antiseptic white desk. I’m facing a glass partition on which hangs a small whiteboard that’s also clean. Beside my laptop is a desk phone with my name digitally emblazoned on the screen. Someone at another desk in another country did some things on his laptop and assigned the phone to me, only to me. My desk is eerily neat. To make it seem more like myself, I’ve scattered some sheets of paper beside my laptop. I snatched the paper from the photocopy machine to write my notes on, since I keep forgetting to bring my notebook from home. There’s a coffee mug beside my phone, filled with cold water because too much (free) coffee makes me palpitate. When I leave this disheveled cubicle this afternoon, it will magically adjust itself overnight and, come tomorrow morning, will be back to its squeaky clean state.

I will argue with you that what I did isn’t selling out, trading in bohemian serendipity for closed shoes and a salary. It’s actually something I’ve always wanted to go back to: working and earning. But this is worlds different from my other jobs.

While finishing my thesis, I worked at an art gallery. It was the first time that I lived away from home and I loved my freedom. In the mornings, I’d dress in my boots and gypsy skirts and walk on the cobbled streets to work. During the day, I would be surrounded by amazing paintings and prints, sculptures and sketches. At night, I’d either go out or stay in and devour a whole pack of dinner rolls and soup. Sometimes after work, my neighbors and I would drive two hours to the beach, eat and be silly, then go back home. It was priceless.

After receiving my degree, I had to look for another job. The one I eventually found in publishing gave me great friends, a precious network, and an iron-clad stomach. But from the outside, it didn’t look as appealing. The office sat in an old warehouse; my friends and I almost didn’t give in our applications because from the parking lot, the building looked like an insane asylum.

But then we did go in and do our interviews; and I got the job.

My desk in that office was an old wooden one painted a sick yellow shade. Because I was the newest member of the staff, my desk faced the “pantry,” which consisted of a tiled counter, a sink, a faucet, and a trash bin. When our office was transformed from an old warehouse, management forgot to send a memo to the resident cockroaches telling them to move out. So my first seatmates in that office were roaches.

We could wear anything, work any number of hours as long as we got the job done, and we could turn off the lights when we were working overtime and scare the senses out of each other. I loved it.

I stayed for about three years. When I finally mastered the art of taping a model’s breasts to make them appear bigger on camera (it was a men’s magazine, after all), I said I learned all I could from that job and went freelance. And from then until a week ago, I worked as a freelance writer and editor.

Until a week ago, my feet had become accustomed to wearing flipflops for entire days – or weeks. I’d learned how to cook dinner TV-chef style: explaining every step I did for my enthralled audience made up of The Tactless Child and The One Who Spits. I’d gotten used to the laughable treatment that writers have to take from many people. (I tell you, the arts scene in this part of the world will never fully take off if talent is consistently taken for granted by people who can afford to hire it. But that one’s for another post.)

Today, for the three days a week that I have to be at work (yes, just three, because freelance life is difficult to let go), I have to wear sensible shoes, ride an elevator to my office, struggle with “working mom’s guilt,” and remember names other than that of The Hub, The Tactless Child, and The One Who Spits. But I get to write almost every day now, I get to truly treat The Hub to dinner sometimes, and the kids get a break from me every once in a while. So it’s all good.