I did something yesterday that I haven’t done in over a year: I washed the ceramic bowl that I keep in my office for lunch. I used the hand soap in the bathroom and I dried it with paper towels from the dispenser while florescent lights buzzed overhead. It felt familiar, bizarre, and kind of depressing at the same time.
I’ve been coming into the office one day a week for over a month, but I am only just now settling into it. The clothes, the routine, the drive, the lunch, the snacks. I have a list of things to buy that, in addition to dish soap, include Band-Aids and a new phone charging cord for the car and my desk. I already have a few other items that I brought with me from my last job including a mug, water glasses, a bottle, Dayquil, fingernail clippers, a razor (for emergencies), and two slightly-embarrassing, inspirational books I bought during a particularly difficult time. But this bowl has really got me thinking. As soon as I started washing it I had a really vivid flashback to a meal over four years ago. It involved “forbidden rice” I had purchased at Tan A Supermarket in Richmond. It looked beautiful, but it tasted disgusting. Had it been artificially dyed to look black? Did I mess up the seasoning? I remembered it so vividly almost like the object had woken up to tell me it was also still traumatized by that lunch as well. The significance of this bowl goes one level further. I bought it during what was basically my first real/hard job. Several months in, I realized that I would be spending a significant portion of my life at this place including long days, some late nights, and weekends. I decided to make my life there as comfortable as possible. I would drive to the nearby Walmart on my lunch break or after work and just walk the isles looking for things to make me happy or more effective at work. I decided I was tired of eating lunch with disposable products so I purchased this ceramic bowl, two water glasses, a fork and two spoons. I also bought a Brita filter and the dish drying pad we still use at home today. I was basically just trying to take care of myself and my needs while being true to my values. This ceramic bowl, compared to the stack of paper plates I’d been using, was a good improvement. At this point in time, I’m gradually remembering what it is like to go in to the office regularly. The work for me is exactly the same, but the location, environment and my appearance all have to change. Even though I can’t stand the buzzing lights and the theater of it all, I am also remembering how nice it is to have a psychological work/home disconnection. I’m settling in to this familiar, but new (and probably also temporary) normal.