Constructing Identity


Well, it is hard to believe it but the MIT Writing Center has been in its “new” location in Kendall Square in Cambridge for more than a year: a hot summer, followed by an interminable grey fall, followed by nine frigging feet of snow, a fair spring and a mild summer. The welcome difference between our current digs and the old grey bullpen in the late and not lamented Building 12 is that we all have our very own desk and computer and file cabinet With Wheels (and I know this because I personally put on all the wheels myself). This may not sound terribly impressive to folks who A. only have one job and B. have had their Very Own Space for like always, but when you are functionally somewhat itinerant having your own space is, scientifically speaking, way cooler.

Even back in the bullpen you could tell who was working at which desk based on whether the books on it were about nuclear proliferation, environmental ethics, Percy Shelley or opera, but now that we can accessorize a bit more, the differences are much clearer. My office mate (Shelley) has a Sherlock Holmes calendar and other Holmsian pictures, bookmarks, etc. I have a painting of red bamboo, a GreenPeace poster, a Fu dog bookend and, on my file cabinet, a maneki-neko clock amid a miniature Stonehenge that I bought while at an alumni reunion at Middlebury College. Layers upon layers.

It’s a bit like the way, back in Catholic school, although encased in plaid uniform and everybody wearing the same shoes, we found exciting shoelaces, with hearts or whales or rainbows, to assert our individuality.