Workplace Displacement


Noah R. Mincheff, Opinion Editor

My room is for sleeping, my desk and computer are for play. The living room is for talking with family; the kitchen is for cooking and eating. My dining room is for puzzles, hobby painting and other personal projects. My campus office is for working, but I haven’t one anymore. The library is for reading and studying, but I cannot go. My residence hall’s study room is for writing, but it is over two hundred miles away and non-essential travel is forbidden. Even now as I type, my mind strains against my fingers to halt their efforts, and redirect my attention to that castle I was besieging when I last saved, or to my friends and that last level we have yet to purge of the undead. My distant, online schoolwork couldn’t be further from mind.

I, like many others, am workplace oriented. The concept is simple: my brain habitually assigns places and environments to certain activities. While inconsequential to some, when people like myself are displaced from any places that are habitual work-environments for us, we fight a draining uphill battle to complete necessary tasks in surroundings endlessly hostile to our goals. The guiding presence of any given space is beyond simple distractions; rather, it roots itself in habit. I could unplug my desktop and move all my monitors, microphones and my cellphone out into the hall, leaving only my laptop, but it would not free me from the subconscious director in the room. The ghost of the precedent I have established for each space dominates my cognitive ability in that environment.

This effect often leaves me in a state of stress paralysis. I find that most days when I feel incapable of working on what I need to be, I cannot enjoy other activities. Therefore, I do nothing at all. I sit or lay and stare at a wall for hours wishing I could move myself to task and purpose.

For these reasons, I have avoided online courses at every turn. I know that I need the structure and accountability of a physical classroom or workplace, and so I am careful to put myself in environments conducive to my success. This global crisis has forced everyone into uncomfortable positions and added immeasurable amounts of stress to the otherwise unremarkable day-to-day functions; however, this cognitive roadblock only serves to exacerbate the already disheartening situation facing students worldwide.

I crumble in the face of a full course load composed of my truest enemies: abstraction, absence of structure and distant authority. Yet even speaking of the matter is a bitterly rewarded effort in the absence of any evident solutions.