This past week has been quite busy for me. I started my research in 2012 and was (thankfully) assigned a research desk within my university’s research office. I had what I considered luxury. It was a large corner cubicle with plenty of shelves and drawers where I could spread out my papers when I was working on an idea and it also afforded me a lot of privacy. After 3.5 years in the same space, our research office has been moved to a different floor and I now have a smaller desk in a much more open space. This too is fine for me. As someone who is used to sharing spaces – I have never had my own bedroom, I did not even have my own chair (let alone a desk) at my first, second and third jobs, and though I have had jobs where I have had my own office, I still consider a desk of any sort to be an absolutely delightful bonus.
This move has necessitated me to go through all the paperwork that I had amassed in all this time. I can happily say that there was very little duplication and very little that needed to be discarded. I did have to sort through a lot of my paperwork as it was all mixed in. I have now ordered my work into boxes, files and trays which represent, to me, how I hope some of my chapters will come together. I also have had to sort through many post-it notes. There were many that had ideas that have continued to grow into more fruitful writing, some whose ideas are still relevant and others whose content perplexes me.
I feel rather fortunate. This move has come about at a good time for me. I like that I had a private quiet cubicle for my first few years. One of my biggest obstacles doing my research has been my transition from a practitioner to a scholarly practitioner. In my first few years, I tended to focus on the practicalities of my research and how it reflected library work. I feel that my private corner let me become engrossed in scholarship. A lot of this was due to the students around me who shared their own experiences. A couple of months ago, my biggest influence in the research office completed her work and has moved on. Previously, I would stop by her desk as I walked past her every morning, and we would talk about our theoretical frameworks (I had zero idea what that even was when I first started!) and conceptual problems that we were grappling with, often solving our problems over a cup of tea and lemon and lime tarts whilst sitting in one of our cubicles. My routine had already shifted when she left. I still talk with other students, both in the old space and the new space, but the disruption to my way of working occurred well before the move to the new. I am thinking differently. This new routine and new space is renewing the way I am viewing my work. Where previously I was reading and data gathering, I am now focusing more on analysing and writing. The operative word is focused. I find that shiny little objects (I’m looking at you, Twitter) no longer have the ability to distract me as easily.
I am now nearing the second half of my fieldwork. I am continuing to collect data but I see a new phase emerging for me and by the end of this year I hope to be writing full-time towards my PhD. So often, as is the norm for most people, a physical change of space has also helped change my thinking spaces. Where before my desk was spread out, chaotic in its order, my smaller space has allowed order to dominate chaos, both in the arrangement of my papers as well as the alignment of my ideas in my mind. Where, before, I was unsure of where to compartmentalise my ideas as they came to me, now I seem to naturally place my thoughts in a specific file in my mind.
I am also fortunate that this move came at a time that worked well for my schedule. If this had occurred during my last few months before submitting my thesis, this would have caused me some distress. I really feel for any of the students that have had this extra pressure placed upon them. It has, though, highlighted to me how important a quiet, stable environment is for me. This had never been an issue for me in workplaces, often travelling between library branches and using the desks that are assigned to work duties rather than specific staff members. This highlights to me that I have indeed shifted away from being only a practitioner. Not only do I like having a permanent space away from home to study in, which is only mine but I feel I need my own place with my own books and my own papers and my own mark. I also have fallen into the habit of rarely doing any university work when I am at home. Home is dedicated to reading and my blog (which explains so many midnight posts). Most people would say that this is a good thing, that I have delineated my life but as I spend more time at home than at university, I might have to blur that line a bit more and perhaps even consider working exclusively from my own home.
I guess I can make that decision later in my next phase, whenever that may be.