Thoughts on life after the PhD
Some years ago I remember being asked one of those “Book of Questions” questions which went something like this: “If you could have a full-time chef, chauffeur, or housekeeper, completely free of charge, which one would you choose?” I think at the time I chose the chauffeur, simply because I hated to drive (still don’t like it very much, but I no longer look like Cruella de Vil hunched over the steering wheel, an image my family always used to bring up when they described by driving style). Nowadays, though, I’d say forget the chef, chauffeur and housekeeper in favor of a commodity that has become more and more precious–space.
Think about it–space is worth a lot. Especially in high-density cities like L.A. and Tokyo. And I don’t mean some nebulous concept of “personal space,” or even a bigger apartment, though that’s always nice. I’m talking about a chunk of space in which to store my stuff and maybe even sleep in when I’m between apartments. Looking back over the last several years, few realities have caused me more stress than the struggle to find an affordable space, sublet that space when I’m gone, and store the larger objects that fill the space when I’m done with it. The logistics of moving from one apartment to another–finding a place that won’t shred your finances into a green pulp and isn’t populated by musicians or howling dogs, getting the timing right so that your current lease is up right when your new lease begins, the hell of packing and unpacking, adjusting to a new space and a new neighborhood, buying and selling furniture–are right up there with breakups and car accidents as sources of horrific stress. I read somewhere that moving creates stress levels similar to those caused by the death of a loved one, and while I think making the comparison is an insult to anyone who’s ever lost a loved one, I can kind of see how the data would add up.
Space would make all of this so much easier. If I only had a little room, just big enough to hold a small amount of furniture and my own sleeping body, I wouldn’t have to deal with the constant turmoil and uncertainty that moving entails. I think I just had an a-ha moment–is this why people buy houses, or condos? So that they don’t have to deal with the stress of moving anymore? I always thought it was just part of a (frequently unrealistic) American Dream, but maybe not. Maybe it’s a perfectly rational response to the hell of moving.
I’ll be moving again this summer, thankfully for the first time in three years. The timing could be a lot better–I’ll be in Japan over the summer and will then have to rush home to search for a new place with the boyfriend, having already given up my old one. We’ll be looking in August, not really the best time to look in L.A. We’ll both be on ridiculously tight budgets and location constraints (living affordably, safely, and within a reasonable distance of our university just isn’t always an option). I really hope that it’s the last time I’ll have to move for quite a while. But I’m a grad student, soon to be a postdoc willing to travel wherever the jobs are, so that’s not likely.
In an economic climate in which millions of people don’t even have a place to sleep or any prospect of attaining one, I know it sounds spoiled and selfish to want extra space. I should be grateful that I even have the means to move from one place to another, and I am. It’s just a nice dream. A little room. Not necessarily rent-free, just really cheap. I could share it with others, and we could trade off using it when we’re in between homes. If anyone knows of such a place, send the info my way.
writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)
tales of travel, research, and life
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