The Return to Office

I’m standing in a building around which there is nothing. The coffee is as absolute shit as the food. The windows don’t open, and there is banging construction. How am I so happy?

Last month, had you told me that I’d be this happy back in the office, I would have pushed you into oncoming traffic. But look at me; like a stupid toddler in a toy store, I am 100% Guy Smiley. The only majour shift from pre-COVID? I used to have six pairs of 5” heels lined against my wall for a full-day’s wear. The idea of slipping on any pair of heels for any extended period of time where I am neither being carried around, nor sitting down, is simply no longer an option. Thanks, COVID, you are forever a prick. At least I can still do splashes of colour, however.

I really hadn’t considered what 2+ years of being at home, primarily alone during the day, would do to my heart and spirit. I don’t think I could have known until I was back inside of an office building. Really, as the old saying goes, turns out that it is Out of sight, most certainly out of mind, regarding the Office.

So again, how can I be so happy?

It always boils down to the same thing – other humans, because we are not tiny islands unto ourselves requiring nothing and no-one but our own silly little potatoed bottoms.

I mean. I had known I missed human interaction, but I had only considered this on a personal friend level, rather than on a work colleague level. It’s why I would work from coffee shops – because then at least, I would see other faces. Though we were each alone, we were alone together. Which, upon greater reflection, is the simplest truth about the human condition – we are alone together.

While not always the case, the (work) family with whom I am presently imbedded is one of my all-time favourites. May it always be this way for me, ya Allah (everyone mutter AAMEEN, please and thank you). Walking through the halls of this building, there is a sense of lightness when seeing familiar faces, unseen in real life for over two years. I’ve never received such consensual (and for me, very welcome indeed), long, tight, and perfectly executed hugs as often as I have this week, and I am over the moon for it. (And you know that I am a stickler for a good full-bodied, tight and meaningful hug. I have rules, and can name those who can and cannot meet the rules of an excellent hug.)

Which is me arriving at the point of this piece – We don’t ever really know what will make us happy until we are experiencing the thing which we might have previously assumed would make us unhappy. This is a funny thought to me, because so many of us spend so much time pursuing the very things we believe we want, the things we believe will make us happy, only to feel rather flat when we finally have them. If I had a penny…

And yet, somehow, I’d truly never internalized this lesson until this week, with every one of the days I’ve spent inside of a windowless office space. Wild, yes?

I’ll close with reminding us of verse 2:216 of the Qur’an, which is traditionally used when we discuss events past, and we’ve not received what we had hoped to receive. So often, we speak it to one another when our hearts are broken. I think, maybe, it might hold a far more nuanced meaning should we use it to look forward instead – “But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.

This week has taught me that this ayah might in fact be a little love letter to our futures, equal parts reminder to never hold onto one thing too tightly, while opening our hearts to both the grace and pleasures of a welcome surprise.

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