I never decorated my desk at work.
This is a fact that makes perfect sense to me, as, in my mind, the job is temporary. Why get comfortable? Sure, I’ve been there seven months now, but who cares? This isn’t my dream job. It’s temporary.
I hate taking steps toward permanence. It’s a problem I have in almost every aspect of my life. I changed my mind about what to study in college so many times that it took me an extra year to graduate. I studied abroad in Australia just long enough to make close friends and immediately leave them behind. I’ve never had a serious boyfriend. I’m living at home with my parents and, despite hating it, I’m afraid if I get an apartment it will mean I’ve committed to stay in my hometown until the end of a lease.
On some level, I think I’m scared of getting too comfortable somewhere. I’m scared of being trapped. I suffer from crippling depression, but despite not genuinely having fun doing anything, there are so many things in life I want to do. The way I see it, if I make myself too comfortable doing any one thing, I won’t have as much time to do the other things. It’s a neurotic form of logic that prevents me from enjoying anything because I want to enjoy everything else next.
Let’s just get it out in the open: I have problems. But of all the things that are wrong with me and my life, I didn’t realize my desk could possibly be one of them — until I brought one of my friends in for a tour of my office building.
“This is just sad,” she told me upon seeing my workspace. “I started my new job yesterday and my cubicle’s already more swagged out than yours.”
“I’m not sentimental,” I told her.
“I don’t care,” she said. “I’m fixing this.”
So when I received a surprise package at work a few days later and recognized my friend’s handwriting on the card, I had a good hunch of what might be inside.
Lo and behold, she’d filled the box with all kinds of workplace goodies: markers, brassy pushpins, a tiny potted succulent, and a collection of photographs of our friend group. She’d even packaged it with her typical art-major flair, complete with a color scheme, stamped tissue paper, and handwritten notes. Simply put, it was nothing short of Pinterest-worthy.
I know my friend. This is just her way of doing things. “The world is her canvas,” as people who like clichés about artists might say.
I expected all the decorations and the notes with cutesy phrases. What I hadn’t expected was the longest note she included in the box. To paraphrase, it said: I know you’re depressed and that sucks. Here are some presents that won’t fix you, but they might make you smile for five seconds, and that would make me happy.
I write about my depression a quite a bit. (You can read my last blog post, or an editorial I wrote for my college newspaper, for example.) I try to speak about it openly and candidly in my everyday life as well, so of course my closest friends know when I’ve been feeling worse than usual. Still, I was surprised my friend thought to mention my depression in her card — it was just a box of stuff for my desk, after all. It had nothing to do with my mental health.
But just like I knew my friend would send me a crafter’s wet dream of DIY decor, she knew I would appreciate the austere message underlying the frivolity of her gift: I am your friend and I care.
No one act of kindness will bring us peace on earth, and no one boxful of office supplies will cure your friend’s depression. But the gift my friend gave me was more than just a Get Well Soon card in blue wrapping paper. It was a reminder that life is to be appreciated for what it is — even the temporary phases of transition.
I hung the pictures up on my wall and tacked her notes up next to them. Every time I looked up from my work and saw my friends in their little Polaroid frames I smiled.
I don’t know how long this live-at-home-with-my-parents, work-a-desk-job-that-bores-me phase of my life will last. I don’t have the slightest idea what the next phase has in store. Still, I think I might be prepared to settle into each phase a little deeper, kick my feet up, make myself at home. After all, this whole life is temporary.