Celebrating, as an Office of One
By some amazing twist of fate, many of my close friends and colleagues have experienced lots of professional good luck in the last month: there have been promotions to celebrate, successful exhibit installs, and surprise opportunities to pursue passion projects. It has been wonderful, and it has reminded me how much I miss being internal to an organization where I can see and celebrate these achievements with my peers. Factor in the upcoming months of holidays and this feeling becomes amplified. To be clear, I still love being a consultant and consider myself the luckiest that I get to type this post from the comfort of my own home. However, I also spent close to nine years being internal. Which means that was nine years of celebrating successes, bonding over learning experiences, and participating in cultural events together. Below are some examples of what I mean.
And when you're EXTERNAL...
Submits proposal on time and under the word limit. Tweets about it.
Finished transcribing over 20 hours of audio data about cow farts. Puts on guilty pleasure Pandora station.
Cat jumps on computer during professional video call. Actually, my cat is cute. You're welcome.
Bonding and celebrating when you're internal...
Met that proposal deadline two hours early? Let's get lunch!
Planned and led an entire family festival on a holiday Monday for 5000+ visitors? I'll buy you a drink or two.
Accidentally hit "reply all" on a private message? Let's go for a walk in the galleries to gain some perspective.
Circling back to the holidays... Today is Halloween and I miss having an office to commute into. This is a holiday I love to watch other people celebrate. Growing up, my sisters would get into the holiday with their decorations and costumes (they still do). When I started working, it became fun to see how museums could get into the spooky spirit with visitors. An art museum I worked at would host an annual day for homeschool students to come dressed in costume and do a haunted self-guided tour. A different art museum challenged patrons to dress in costumes inspired by the collections, showcasing their creations across social media pages. Finally, a science center I was at used encourage some healthy competition by having departments compete against each other with pumpkin carvings... which quickly became pumpkin theatrics (perks of an exhibits team with access to laser lights). I love the camaraderie that comes from these kinds of professional environments.
Replicating this feeling of being part of some bigger cultural celebration when you're an office of one is hard, but not impossible. My virtual colleagues and I do what we can to jazz up our Slack status updates. We also trade pictures of our pet-interns in cute costumes. At home, I upped the decor-budget so that it feels more festive and like there is some variety in the "workplace." There is even a bowl of candy on my desk should any visitors or ghosts stop by.
The upcoming winter months will be the first where I didn't have office holiday parties to help plan or attend, offices to decorate, white elephant gift swaps to organize, or coworkers to offload baked goods on - all things I truly love doing. Upping the decor in my house, having an emoji-filled status message, and putting my cat in a costume she truly hates are ways I am attempting to develop a new culture for my office of one and help stall feelings of "missing out." On the plus side, I have now become the defacto queen for every costume contest, chili cookoff, and whatever other faux celebration I put on.