Currently, I am typing this in a boxy, stuffy, fluorescent-lit room in Unit 2. This living quarter costs about 3,400 quarters every month of every semester. That’s not a bad price, considering I share a room with one shower, one toilet and five men. (Unfortunately, you are reading print, which means that you couldn’t tell that I was being sarcastic before this parenthetical).
When I first stepped into this human habitat, I was rather impressed. It reminded me of a hotel. But imagine living in a hotel room for months — it gets depressing. These walls, this furniture and these windows are all but personalized. You can tell from their very essence that they are meant to last past you and past the person who will pass you.
Because of this environment, all feels temporary. I still don’t call my residence hall “home,” but I can’t call my Los Angeles house “home” either. I currently reside in a weird, ambivalent purgatory. I fluctuate to and fro, without choosing a “to” or a “fro.” I am as homeless as the guitar-playing, pot-smoking, ranting, rambling men and women who reside just two blocks down from where I sleep. Every night, I climb into bed and try for hours to climb down the ladder of consciousness into dreams. But sleep comes with difficulty on a plastic pallet.
Waking up, however, takes no effort. Every day, a garbage truck blasts louder and sooner than my alarm. Every night, it seems like an ambulance rushes to aid an alcohol-ridden freshman. In all, I simply cannot adjust to a living residence monikered “Unit 2.” The very name makes me feel like I am living in a cookie-cut cubicle. I realize that I am just a trivial life in one of the many windows that fill the walls of Unit 1, Unit 2 and Unit 3. Because of this, I feel like a small fish living in an ocean of other small, indistinguishable fish. I feel like a number, and I’d much rather be a word.
I have made the pathetic attempt to personalize my immediate surroundings. Plastered posters cover my slice of my shared room. I feel like a sad 9-to-5 marketing salesman who covers his cubicle with pictures of his kids to remind himself why he is trading his life for something as trivial as money.
Now, I know I’m not being melodramatic. I know that these feelings are valid. My expectations weren’t as high as my floor mates on a Friday night. While I lived in an residence hall back in Philadelphia, I felt happy, comfortable and at home. I actually looked forward to getting back to my desk, my couch, my bed. I loved my shared room as much I love listing things in sets of three.
I felt free. I could be who I wanted to be. I didn’t have to sign in every time I entered my building after 6 p.m. I didn’t have to partake in ice breakers that only succeeded at breaking my patience. I was independent. Though Philadelphia was further, I felt closer to home and closer to myself.
Now I feel suffocated when I breathe the air that has been in the lungs of so many. I don’t feel unique — I feel trivial and exploited. I find myself wandering the world to distract myself from wondering why I spent so much for this concrete excuse of a home. I’d much rather have a home built of straw or sticks. The fact that I feel better on long walks or in quiet libraries is rather sad. These are the only places where I don’t feel like a primary color (specifically, blue). These dormitories make me feel inauthentic, average and every other sad adjective you can imagine. Forty thousand students live around me and 7 billion people around us. I wonder what feeling indistinguishable will do to my self-image when I step out into the future. In the end, these letters come from someone defined as a number.
Contact Chris Vinan at [email protected].