I have long loved IKEA. Filled with all sorts of home and lifestyle stuff that is hip and useful and decently crafted, IKEA is a place for dreamers, visionaries, and even those with little to no vision to be inspired. Some weekday mornings when papers needed to be graded, lesson plans to be written, and granola bars and sweet potatoes to be bought, I would drift over to IKEA for a pick-me-up.
Sometimes I bought a rug, once—despite having my big old reusable blue bag in tow—only a set of serving spoons, and sometimes on my way out, I had to have one of those .99 frozen yogurt cones. And then I would drift back home to let the day’s work begin. As I read over papers, attached study guides to Blackboard, and listened to daytime t.v., I could look around my living room from the couch and see IKEA inspiration all around me: lots of colors and lots of stuff stored stealthily in furniture that made company none the wiser to my pack rat tendencies. Not all of it, most of it was not, from IKEA. But IKEA sentiments were as much a part of the fabric as if it had been woven in like a brand tag.
Nowadays IKEA makes me sad. Makes me remember those mornings of putting off work with a longing I never expected to come. I never loved my job. I loved my students. I loved researching, masterminding and implementing ways to at once challenge and train their minds without them even realizing what was happening. I loved the way they challenged me; I felt inspired and inspiring. I felt as useful as any storage unit or easy to assemble sofa bed IKEA has ever sold. I loved the steady income. I did not, however, love my job in a way that made me scared to lose it.
But now I miss it the way you might miss an old lover with whom you had little romantic chemistry but good times nonetheless.
I never intended to retire from a career in higher education; when I first started teaching I was convinced teaching was something I would not be doing for the rest of my life. I tried to position myself to be able to make the transition when the opportunity came, but the transition happened so quickly that I had no opportunity to adjust or recover.
There is a sense of loss in thinking of IKEA these days because it represents what I have lost in the layoff.
My inspiration has often waxed and waned without much rhyme or reason and without a clear cut beginning or end. What has always scared me about that is the ambiguity of it. If it were just missing a job, missing a steady and livable income, or even just missing the children, I think I could find a fair if not easy fix. But inspiration is an intangible whose fix is like a high—always grasping for the potency of the first time. (And never really finding it).
I do not see IKEA when I look around my living space now. There is no room here for stealthy hiding; things I use regularly are stacked in every corner to the point of clutter and boxes, boringly brown and collecting sheets of dust are marked with the names of rooms that I no longer have to buy hip useful stuff from IKEA for. Like dust collecting on my dreams and clouding my vision. Friggin’ frustrating.