Room to room to room

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MAY 14, 2019

Almost four years ago, I bought an Ethernet cable that I would never use. Shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond in Emeryville with my mom, I was much more intrigued by the dorm decor and shower caddy options than this mysterious technological device that was on every dorm must-have list. But there it was, next to “ear plugs” and “extension cord.” Truly, the essentials.

Neither of us really knew what an Ethernet cable was or if I actually needed it, but it obligatorily went into the basket, and upon moving into Clark Kerr Campus, it promptly made its way to the back of my campus-issued desk drawer. Shitty Wi-Fi be damned, the cable remained unused through four years of clicking between AirBears2 and CalVisitor.

In the eight semesters and three summers since then, I have carried that Ethernet cable to a combined total of nine rooms in six different houses, apartment buildings and co-ops. My college living experience has become a collage of different roommates, different landlords and different attempts to find a good living situation in the hell that is the Berkeley housing market.

Each new place came with its charms and quirks. But every chance I got to Goldilocks my way to a new space, I hopped to the next bowl of proverbial oatmeal. I’ve tried out singles, doubles and triples along the way, weighing the comparative merits of each combination. There was the room with the leopard gecko, whose cricket food I would sometimes encounter hopping around on the carpet. In one spot, my bed was located directly above a basketball hoop, so I learned to quickly fall asleep to the constant bash of shots against the rim.

Moving has become a semi-well-honed exercise in haphazardness, somehow always more difficult than the time before. Each place has also inevitably come with a bump in the road from location to location.

I’ve schlepped deconstructed bed frames across campus in the dead of night, absconded with a friend’s work van to haul a mattress from Southside to Northside and even attempted to ride my flat-tired bike loaded with junk up Hearst Avenue. I’ve moved and packed all my things by myself, with friends, soberly and also not-so-soberly. And somehow, with each trip, I have still managed to be terrible at organizing my things, always leaving with boxes poorly Jenga-ed together.

Yet even with all of the annoying things about moving and adjusting to a new space, a new room was always a fresh opportunity, and one I greatly looked forward to. I would decorate each one to match my semesterly mood. There were the lemony yellow curtains of my first co-op abode that made the walls glow with sepia tones when the sun hit them just right. There was the first time I rolled out the first carpet I ever bought one summer when I happened, by sheer luck, to get a single with my house’s room-bids system. I sprawled out on it in my newfound spatial solitude, stretching into the four corners I would call my own for a too-brief three months.

This probably wasn’t the vision I had had of my time in college, but my intrinsic flakiness combined with an itch for the new has spurred me onward. In some ways, my living situations have come to mirror my always-in-flux college experience. New room, new kitchen, new extracurricular, new me.

Along the way, I’ve lost various sentimental and nonsentimental ideas, made sketchy Craigslist deals to get rid of extraneous furniture and done a whole bevy of scouring on Free & For Sale for a good price on a desk lamp. Through all of my flakiness in finding a place to stay, some things have stayed constant — the willingness of people to help me out, the way-too-many books I insist on keeping and the enigmatic Ethernet cable.

By senior year, in many ways I had finally settled down. After about eight months away from Berkeley for a semester abroad and a summer working at home, I returned to campus fully prepared to jump back into my aimless housing search. But contrary to my instinct to pack up and move on to the next thing, the past few semesters have been a more comfortable fit. I came across a room that’s become a great match for me: a bed that’s just the right size, a view that I love, a series of well-placed posters that populate my thumbtack-speckled walls.

Staying put is tough for me, but after years of bouncing around, there’s something satisfying in growing into a new place and space. For all the excitement or the brief rushes of satisfaction I might have found in moving up and out from place to place, finding a space to land has been its own source of comfort. Even though it took a while to get to this spot, and I will be leaving in the next few months for an inevitable postgrad move, for the time being, I can just sit back and enjoy where I’m at.

Contact Camryn Bell at 


MAY 15, 2019