Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Space - Cubicles and Identity

I work in a cubicle. I think a cubicle is a bit like a locker in high school, except that lockers were generally locked and so only visible to you and your friends. A cubicle is a very public space. I want to make it my own but I want to it remain somewhat professional and survivably neat. Still, the space says a lot about what I value, I think.

First, off in the back corner is my to-read pile. This has grown over the years, first with books given by co-workers to educate me on our field. Then I joined and started picking up other books I wanted to read. I had them mailed to the office and would add them to stack and eventually had so many that I quit swapping and am just trying to read through them. You see CS Lewis, M. Scott Peck, Chaim Potok, Moby Dick, etc., etc. Oh, and chocolate. That would be chocolate covered espresso beans from Trader Joes, which my friend Jessica says is like eating chocolate covered gravel.

Up top above my overhead bins are curios from around the world. There's a really awesome ornate metal covered Jewish prayer book printed in Israel (but bought at a thrift store in Chi-town), decorative kids slippers and a little taxi from Pakistan, a blessing and my name in Chinese from the girls I taught English to while I was there, a cliche telephone box from England, and a little mural from my time in Cyprus. All things Indonesia are currently packed for speaking events. It speaks of my identity being formed around the world, this love of culture and travel. 

Underneath those you see on the right the "Vocation Prayer" that I found years back when I was doing a lot of thinking and blogging about vocation/careers. It's been there for ages and is important to me as I think about my work:

Your work and your worship are intimately interwoven. In fact, they are not separate at all: your work grows out of your worship and your worship grows out of your work. Do you come today to acknowledge that the place where you work is as holy as the place where you worship? 

Enabled by Christ's love for more, I shall endeavor to make each day's work a sacrament. I pray that my work will be cleansed of all spiritual or material selfishness, of all impatience or criticism, of all secret desire for consolation, recognition, or reward. Turn, O God, my seeing into loving, that I may witness to the redeeming love of Jesus Christ for all men.

And then... there are the photos. Photos of me and my girlfriends, photos of Indonesian and Papuan scenery and people. There are family photos for when new co-workers come to my desk and I show them the pictures of Isaac and I and Judah and tell them another is on the way. And the photo of the girls I worked with in China that I have prayed for since - the photo is a reminder to pray for them.

 In the background are photos from home, photos that represent Indonesia. There's one taken of a friend silhouetted in the sunset at the beach near my childhood home. It looks like it's from a magazine. There's another (in a photo further up the post) magazine-worthy shot of the same beach, white sand, a low-hanging coconut tree, and a canoe. I took it  the last time I was there. And then a photo that is beautiful and sad at once, a mass of people trailing down a green hill underneath a beautiful mountain. They are Indonesian, Papuan, and all shades of Westerners from around the world, and they are carrying and following the casket of Paul Westlund, a missionary pilot and my friend's father. His plane crashed and he died a couple of years ago, and the entire community mourned. I keep a quote from Paul on the photo, "If you are breathing, you should be laughing", and the entire thing is such a powerful testament to me of a life well-lived, poured out for that place and those people, with joy and simplicity. I still mourn for my friend, her mom, and her brother, but there is also an example for me here in what it means to truly "go" and work quietly and live well.

Then I have the corner, just next to my computer and in front of where my cup of coffee/tea sits, where I have a frame filled with photos and more spilling onto the wall. It's what I've done all my life - put up too many photos to mark the place of people and places far away or long ago, to show they are important even today. And so I have a fading photo of my class from those high school days that formed me and my relationships so powerfully. There's a photo of the girls at my bridal shower in Chicago. Among them is Mandy, who died just two years later. There's my favorite family photo ever of my family in their Pakistani getup, posing in front of a ramshackle beach cabin outside of Karachi on top of camels.

And finally, surrounding the camel photo, a little section that's grown just over the last couple of years (my most fulfilled years at this work-place), where this place has come to feel like a community, not just co-workers. Here were are, the winning team at an office game of kick-ball. There, four of us posed in crazy Christmas elf hats for a funny Christmas gift someone created from the photo series. I doubt I will miss much of Dallas as a place, it's never found its way into my heart very deeply. But the people, and in particular the way I grew into a role of daily investing in a work I loved while surrounded by FUN people who keep things hilarious on a daily basis? That I will miss.

Decorating a space is always intriguing to me, but I never manage to do it perfectly professionally. I want too much for it to reflect some of the places and people that are meaningful to me.

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