The thinking chair

One of the other professors on my floor has been looking for space to put a visiting grad student who’ll be working with his lab for the next two and a half months.  Our office is a bit deeper than the others on the floor, since we’re at the center of the outward-curved wall, so even though we’ve already got four grad students in the office the Powers that Be decreed that we make room for the visitor.

I said no.  Repeatedly.  I don’t want our office to get crowded. But the prof put his foot down and, quite simply, I lost that territory battle.

We reorganized a bit, moved things into lab, got rid of stuff that we inherited from untold generations of previous occupants, shoved some filing cabinets around (oh my are they heavy when full of soil samples…) and I managed to keep space for our thinking chair.  The threat of losing that comfy chair was my real beef.  I have a standing desk (prolonged sitting tends to flare up an old whiplash injury) but sometimes it’s just nice to sit down.  Read a paper.  Think.  Drop my head in my hands and let go.  Y’know?

I realized that the chair isn’t just a chair — it’s all the things that it provides.  It’s the space to step away from my desk and the computer and the piles of stuff-in-progress.  It’s the still point in a hectic day.  It’s the act of taking care of myself.  It’s a quiet little indulgence.  In short, it’s the many little things that make it possible to get back up out of the chair and keep pushing on for six years of grad school.  I’ve come to appreciate those things, and how much that human element is necessary for something as demanding as a dissertation.

So I’ve kept the thinking chair.  Can I remember to use the chair more often?  Can I take the lessons from it and make more spaces, places, moments, symbols for all those human parts of the process?

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