I cleared out my desk today

Ryan McInally
2 min readNov 11, 2020


Illustration: Justin Cassano

I’ve been putting something off for over seven months now. I’ve been meaning to go into my office, empty the contents of my desk into a box and exit a building for potentially the last time. I have had an overwhelming desire to do this for several months but postponed it due to regional restrictions and limited access. Last week I did exactly this. I didn’t leave a resignation letter and I don’t plan on quitting.

I wanted to this because it’s something I can do. It’s also a recognition that the desk may have been assigned to me, it’s not my desk right now — and there is a chance it may never be my desk again. This is okay. I am fully ready to embrace change. I remember graduating during the Great Recession and having my world turned upside down as doors once open to those with limited experience began to close rapidly. Doors would not open for several years, but I liked many managed.

Our relationship to spaces and places is a tether and sometimes due to circumstance those connections can be severed. I think it’s a lot healthier to recognize that this fracture has occurred and prepare myself for what’s next as opposed to falsely believing that the relationship or dynamic has not changed. Even if I were to return to my office in the distant future, how I interact with that space will be unlike any way I have interacted with an office before. The process will undoubtedly become more procedural; walk here, don’t walk there, wear a mask when doing this but don’t wear a mask when doing that.

I’ve met people who prefer to keep nothing in their desk while I know others who take great pride in personalizing their desk with personal objects. Objects are a representation of who we think we are but also how we want others to see us. Objects can also simultaneously comfort and entertain us. I’ve often filled my desk with items that might be considered necessities like a toothbrush, extra deodorant, some gym clothes, etc. I’ve also filled my desk with things that wouldn’t be considered essential, like a hand printed postcard I bought in India or some toy cars I got from a McDonald’s happy meal. All of these objects may not be considered essential, they did serve some purpose and made my existence easier in that space.

When I removed my baggage, literal and figurative from my old office — I knew that it was one last thing I would have to do in the future.