My office is a war zone.

It might be hard to see upon first glance.  The desk is relatively clean, organized.  IKEA standard fare.   The accordion folders hold our files.  I am the keeper of files.  This is what I do.  Printer.  Trays of papers.  Pens. My painting experiments and quotes pinned to the walls – reminding me to keep doing art.  Telling me to “shoot straight, ride hard, and dance well, so that I can look any man in the eye and tell him to go to hell.”  I appreciate that sentiment. Corners are filled with camping gear in boxes, side walls with various wall art we haven’t decided where to hang.  On the floor lies an unfinished painting.  It stares at me and I think it’s getting grouchy.

The office is the physical manifestation of the ongoing struggle in my head to prioritize my priorities.  I have a file of writings – things I have been working on for a long time, policy papers, articles that mean things to me,  lists of ideas for the future, paperweights made of rocks from my travels to jog my memory of times past and inspire my creativity.  One drawer of my desk holder old photos, correspondence, cards from people I care about, and my camera supplies – I still need to take that digital photo class.  Another drawer holds my CV – in the many forms it now takes.  I’ll have to update it yet again, now that I’m an environmental scientist.  Yes, I’m a scientist.  A wearer of many hats, I am.

And on the floor is the painting.  South Park.  South Park.

South Park, the inspirer.

R began a book about South Park.  It was burgled.  A thief may at this moment be perusing the environmental history of that space, written in the careful, methodical, and exacting tone of an engineer and lover of mountains.  Perhaps it will give him pause as the painting does me.

The painting sprung forth from my mind as a gift idea a year ago.  It was birthed antipodally in the search for a reminder of home, and a filler of wall space, and a bringer of pink tones to match the free pink couches.  It sits on my floor, waiting for me to add details.  But more so, it sits on the floor reminding me to pause.

I’ve had three-quarters of a year of freedom to do whatever the hell I wanted.  I biked across the northwestern US.  I hiked the Olympics.  I learned to surf in Nicaragua.  I volunteered with preschoolers and played in the mud with them.  I spent more one-on-one time with my dad than I have in years.  I thought about my life and the crazy turns and twists it has carried me on over the last year.  I thought about the future, and I thought about the past.

I started work this week doing something I like.  I am excited.  I am using my education.  I hope I can do meaningful work and feel proud of my contribution.  But each day, it will still be work that takes me away from self-reflection for the better part of my waking hours.

And so, the painting sits there, beckoning.  Asking me to consider it.  To consider my choices.  To consider my life and it’s parts.

My office may be a war zone.  But it’s a war worth fighting, between the parts of me that I cherish – my creativity – and the parts that bring me a paycheck.  Sure, they overlap at times, but it’s still a war.

I will let you know who comes out victorious – and I’ll post the painting when it’s done.


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