Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Is this the real life, is this just fantasy

The Oliners have gone back to school; life continues as usual for them, with slightly different roles. Classes, projects, hanging out in the lounge, late night conversations in the lounge, work, clever furniture arrangements, chaotic solidity, wide-eyed frosh who haven't gotten bags under their eyes yet (they come chattering in excitedly from ice cream instead). My old suite is occupied by Liz Kneen & Co. and sports an even more spectacular sound system, the total cubic footage of which utterly dwarfs the full-size fridge in the corner. I stayed a night and slept in Yrinee's empty room (Jon's room last year) and drew on Matt Crawford's student handbook; campus felt comfortable but faded, like an old shirt you've loved but wore through and outgrew. It still feels familiar, but you don't quite fit it any more.

Chandra came. We went to dinner with the two dozen Olin students who responded to Boris's spur-of-the-moment email. Chandra lives in New Hampshire now, in a proper apartment, with a little patio, and carpet, and a bedroom with a walk-in closet. We assembled furniture, sat in boxes of packing peanuts, lit the wall sconce in her apartment for the first time (flickering red candles; lovely), and spent too much time at the outdoors store picking out a traveling pack (glory, backpacks are expensive) and travel towel (amazingly absorbent) for my treks around the world. She agonized over floor lamps at Bed Bath and Beyond and compared frying pans. I browsed through quick-drying underwear wondering which ones would dry out fastest on a hostel clothesline. Our lives are taking very, very different paths right now.

Kristen's at a post-Olin house by Central with 3 other alumni - Chris, Susan, and Pearl - and some MITers. She cooks excellent spaghetti and introduced Chandra and me to the Super Bomber Man video game over raspberry beer floats. I also live - for this last week before travels, anyway - in a post-Olin house. Maker House. A reasonable-length walk from Porter and currently stinking of paint, meaning I have a roof over my head but it's the kitchen's or the workshop's or whatever the room with the softest floor is that hasn't recently been attacked with a roller and I've yet to sleep in the same place more than two nights in a row this month and we don't have internet there either but might start sharing wireless with the Ryans (two people, first names, both genders, upstairs) soon but not yet so I'm at my aunt's house one last time so I can get 'net for a night and pack my books for Chicago.

It's a scary thing when Gui and Jenn are the most stable people in your household. With Not in Zambia, Matt sleeping on a couch on the back porch of an MIT coop - quite nice, actually. I took the second back-porch couch once, and the sun filters through the upper deck before the chainsaw from next door wakes you - and me without any space to actually call mine, we're a house of bohemian transients... definitely not "proper adults" as I was taught you were supposed to become. I spend a couple hours a day now scrambling for a place to sleep and transportation to get there (walking is slow). I've considered claiming a corner of the dance studio with my sleeping bag, but I think they painted that tonight. Sleeping in a different spot every night means I need to find a different spot to get 'net every night - and that some nights I don't, since I'm largely staying in friends' apartments that haven't quite been set up yet. (revelation: houses don't come with internet. Someone has to come out and install it.)

Also, houses don't come with furniture. You have to get it and build it and put it in; until you do, you get to eat pancakes and scrambled eggs cross-legged on the floor, or last night's orange-glazed chicken stir-fry while balancing on the arm of the single sofa which is the only seat in the room. Stability? I think I used to have that, used to sleep in pajamas instead of my clothes, under comforters instead of in sleeping bags. I'll be glad to return to Boston in 2008 and have a room that is mine, that I can bike home to every night, where I know I'll get wireless, food, and friends. When I can spend my day thinking about fixing bugs, closing tickets, reading books, starting businesses - not where am I gonna eat, sleep, find a shower. (I've never worried about not being able to find one. It's just a matter of where and how it's going to turn up.)

Then again, that's homeostasis speaking. I want to learn how to keep an inner compass - something I don't have so much, I rely on externally imposed input, structure as a scaffolding. I need to learn how to consciously preserve certain habits even when the rest of my life is unstable - something I hope traveling will teach me. How to keep up little rituals of productivity that require minimal infrastructure. How to keep walking towards my goals in the absence of someone telling me what they are. How far can I let the reins go on my hyperactive attention span before I slip over the edge of not making sense to most of the rest of the world.

I've never missed school as much as I do tonight. There were professors there, and even if I rebelled against classes in the end they at least gave me something to push against, and I miss the people - and I miss living in a world I knew how to run within. The ocean's so much wider than the ponds I've been, and I haven't even begun to fathom how far out it goes.

I keep telling myself I chose not to take the easy route - a job, an apartment, a car - because I'd wonder for the rest of my life what would have happened if I didn't. But they don't tell you how terrifying adventures are when you're actually living them. I'm the happiest I can remember being, and I'm learning at an amazing rate... and I am always - always - afraid.

2 comments:

L33tminion said...

Sorry I didn't get a chance for more than a quick hello on the stairs the last time you were up at Olin. The next time you come up here, I hope we'll have more of a chance to hang out.

Christie said...

Mel Mel Mel!

Good luck on your adventures! I hope that you will continue to blog but know from experience that it's damned hard to sit in front of a computer while in far off places. Perhaps our paths will cross - I am in China now...where exactly are you going? Philippines? Then where?