A few weeks ago, I got lost, in a good way. I spent most of a Saturday setting up my office space. I had purchased some new items, included some things I already had, and carefully planned the layout of the furniture and the artwork.* Why was this so enjoyable, and did it really make sense to spend so much time on a room?
I realized that this is the first time in my professional career that I have complete control over how to set up my workspace. I’ve been in countless cubicles and offices, and being mobile can bring great flexibility, but it’s also a bit unsettling. Esprit de Merci has offered many opportunities to create – to design my own future. Why not my office too?
I thought more about why this is important to me.
In her famous essay, Virginia Woolf explained her position of the need for a room of one’s own. While the subject at hand was women and fiction, she saw that the concepts could be expanded to include all of us – as artists and creatives, and as individuals. She wrote that we are “inheritors and originators”, stressing the importance taking in the world around us and understanding oneself in order to express ourselves to others.
Looking back, I’m ever grateful to my parents for ensuring we each had our own room growing up, regardless of the size and layout of our house. When my younger sister was born, they remodeled the living room for my older sister, and when we moved to another house with only three bedrooms, they set up a space for themselves in the basement. By high school, we were back in a house with four bedrooms, and I got the space in the basement. I didn’t hold back in making it my own.
I recently asked my mom and dad why they didn’t simply have my older sister and I share a room, and the response was immediate. It simply never occurred to them to do anything but preserve the personal space we’d already enjoyed – it wouldn’t be fair in their minds to take that away. What a gift that truly was.
From my college days on, sharing a room or multiple rooms became inevitable. It took me awhile to recognize the importance and significance of my own space, and I ultimately realized that I would be responsible for finding ways to make it possible.
The room can be physical or metaphorical. It is more than simply an “escape” in the sense of blocking out everything that may be important or challenging. We must intentionally create opportunities to disconnect from what we perceive to be the expectations of others, to reduce distraction and to truly connect with ourselves.
As I reflected more, I found this desire and intention to be a recurring theme. In one of my many recent walks around campus, I was reminded that Virginia Tech was built on a plot of land formerly known as Solitude. It’s easy to see the appeal of such a place today.
Leaders too are creators and individuals. It’s easy to for the calendar be filled with meetings and obligations. We have commitments to our team members, customers, family, friends, community and others. Information comes from all angles and it can seem at times like trying to drink from a firehose. We need to always value this input, and be sure to value our own as well.
In order to best serve those constituents, we must also serve ourselves. With all that is coming our way, it’s critical to take time to stop, reflect, observe and process. Find a place to refresh and recharge, and to inspire what comes next. Find your space to sort things out, and put them back together in a way that aligns with you as an individual as well as your organization.
The room doesn't have to be indoors - maybe getting outside is an option.
You might even find that solitude in the middle of a crowded airplane or in a coffee shop.
What works for one person might not be the right option for someone else. When you have a break in the schedule, try to hold back from filling time by watching another movie, listening to another podcast, or scheduling another meeting. Commit to yourself that you will make the time find your own sense of unity within.
As I left my office at midnight that Saturday (yes, it really did take me that long!), I realized what a gratifying day it had been. I literally took everything apart and put it back together again, all on my own, getting in my flow with some upbeat music and re-fueled by a dinner break. **
This office is more than simply a place to meet with my clients, take calls and respond to emails. It is also a place to connect with myself, and I realize every day what a privilege it is to have it. I love to share it with others and greatly appreciate the much-needed time and space to myself to continue to grow, create and contribute.
I look forward to hearing about your experiences and favorite ways to get lost!
* Shout out to Industrious Buckhead Atlanta and Decades Antiques & Vintage - without you the space wouldn't be what it is!!
** I recommend Essential Hard Bop tunes (Apple Music) and Shake Shack for a job like this!