This is not a complaint about my job. It’s about my office; the actual physical space in which I am consigned to do my job. My office has no windows. It does have a door, in case I feel like locking myself inside the office with no windows to intensify that sitting in a dark closet feeling.
It’s not that I’m an outlier in this. Outside the top two or three people in the organization, no one has a window. Well, there is the one office that four people share, that has a small glass-covered opening like something furtively chipped out a cell in Alcatraz. Still, all the other coworkers will gather round to gaze out in wonderment at the sun, or clouds, or the trash truck backing up to the dumpsters, or whatever passes for the outside world at the moment. I’m not sure why there are no additional outside windows. As far as I can tell, my company is located on the second floor of a two-story building with outside walls which are, in fact, facing the outside world. I don’t come into work and take an elevator 100 feet below ground into a lead-lined bunker protecting the Tesseract of the Infinityverse, or whatever it was Iron Man and Samuel L. Jackson were carrying on about in those Avenger movies. Just a second floor office with lots of walls where windows could be, but aren’t.
I’m not sure if there are any scientific studies on this, but I’m willing to be a test subject. A lack of natural light has been proven (I guess, I’ll Google it later) to increase depression. Add in four sickly yellow walls, and the mental health stats don’t look good. What happens is I will get to work, and get as much done early in the morning before I start getting squirrelly. I take quick breaks to walk to around the office, hang out in the kitchen, stare out the one small window that the 40 or so of us in the office have some kind of access to, then come back to my desk.
And this is when that draining feeling starts to hit, my eyes glaze over, it becomes physically difficult sometimes for me to do much more than endlessly scroll through my work pages, feel bad about scrolling for a few minutes, forget why I felt bad, start scrolling again, and feel like I am being pulled even further into my ergonomically mediocre office chair. I think of the words, and either cannot come up with the words, or think of some words, but cannot exert the effort to get the words from brain to fingers to keyboard. Slouch. Then begins the internal monologue struggle to remind myself that there is fresh air, and exercise — right outside the door! A walk, I will go for a walk.
Thirty minutes of scrolling later I have put on my hat and coat, spent another five minutes scrolling through my phone to find something to listen to that will stir me to action, or steps at least, and I am on my way. The Fresh Air hits me. The music that seemed middling under the glare of scrolling under the harsh florescent lights is now perfectly in tune and rhythm with every step I take. An avalanche of words reach a crescendo in my head (which may be a mixed metaphor, but there are so many words, and ideas, and steps that I am convinced it will all make sense if I only had a notebook to take the ideas down and hammer them into shape, while also watching for cars as I cross the street). I stealthily dodge the goose poop around the common, sidestep the fireball nips, and marvel at the incredible amount of sidewalk trash a small city can accumulate in even the mildest of winters. It’s easy to be reminded that the simple things can improve your mood, but when your mood needs to be improved, even the simple things aren’t simple. But they work, maybe not in a big, life-changing way at all once. The first step is the hardest, the longest journey, etc. etc. etc.
I get back to the office, and, well, it is still a harshly lit yellow room with no windows, and I can feel a glaze starting to descend over my eyes, and the gently squeaking rocking of the office chair lulls me into a quick scroll or two. There’s the kitchen, and more coffee, and I know I might regret it, but it is coffee, so I make one more cup, I walk around some more. But I fight the midday, no light torpor, and there is some work, and some words, and the feeling that as easy as it is to give into the box, there is a window out there, and some light, and I can remember that, and use it to the best of my ability.