For two weeks this summer I had to be a drifter. This transformation of lifestyle was driven not by choice but rather inconvenience as the lease at my old place ended on July 31, a full two weeks before the lease at my new place began. This is a common problem in State College, where I live as a writer, aka a conscientious objector of the real world. Unlike in most cities, where I suspect these two weeks would be viewed as an obvious nuisance, State College has the perfect can-do attitude that turns any obstacle into an opportunity. This city, after all, ranks among the places leading this country in intelligence, as well as among the places leading this country in arrests for drunkenly stumbling into the wrong house at 4 a.m. (Ed’s note: The mayor would not confirm this last detail for me.) One of my friends opined, in fact, that bumming around on couches is a Hajj-ian experience for college town residents, an action that must be undertaken at least once. Over these two weeks I easily found refuge at two friends’ apartments and was even able to sleep on a mattress. There was no need for an extended stay motel or to browse AirBNB. Problem solved.
So the hard part wasn’t securing a free bed; it was figuring out what to do with my bed. WTF was I going to do with all my stuff? My top choice was to store it in the empty garage of my new place, but that option necessarily involved opening the garage to that new place, which necessarily involved my new landlord. He is an interesting (read, possibly schizophrenic) character. I will not divulge his name here but will say that the first article that pops up when you enter his name into your Google machine has to do with a busted State College cocaine-ring. Let the parlor game commence!
To make a long story short that garage has been locked for eons and requires “Sword and the Stone” magic to be pried open, and my landlord is many things but not King Arthur. The next-most obvious choice was to place it in a storage facility. From what I heard, the rates for such facilities could be more than $20 a day, an expense of $300 for a couple of weeks. At this point I began thinking about what I would have to store, a thought process that ended after a few seconds. The answer was nothing, nothing valuable at least. Every piece of property I own that is bulkier than a DVD case I inherited for less than $30 when I moved to State College last year. The math wasn’t difficult to compute. The invisible space in a storage pod was more valuable than the entirety of my possessions, particularly if I wanted to keep this air at a crisp 65 degrees.
My neighbor suggested I sell my stuff (a bed, dresser and desk) on Craigslist. I found buyers for my box spring, $30, and my desk, $20. As for the dresser, I heaved it into the backyard of my new place and covered it with a plastic bag thinking, incorrectly, no one would steal it. I kept a smattering of clothes, a too-extensive NBA/NCAA basketball jersey collection, some books, a DVD collection highlighted by 10 Things I Hate About You, and a skillet (nonstick, what!).
It was then I realized that I’m 26 years old and don’t have real stuff.
Ten years ago, when I was sixteen, I thought I might own a house at this age. I thought I might be engaged or married. I don’t even have a dog, or a couch, or a TV, though I do have a SEGA Genesis and a circular chair that is pretty comfortable. Such a realization could hit hard for some, like a mid-20s crisis, but I don’t feel like I should own anything.
I don’t want that last statement to be interpreted as part of some deeper trend. This isn’t meant to be an anti-consumerist rant or a TIME-y, macro-view of Generation Y (you guys, we’re so debt-ridden and busy checking Twitter when we wake up in the early afternoon that we can’t/don’t/won’t buy things!) It’s my personal opinion.
I remember when my great-grandmother died about thirteen years ago. She lived through three centuries, lived to be 100, and she had Soooo. Much. Stuff. “Grammy” had accumulated enough statues, knick-knacks and empty coffee tins to fill, literally, an entire room, and she had enough antique tables, recliners and sofas to seat, not literally, the Red Army. Her numerous possessions made sense. She had lived in tiny Osborne, Kan., her entire life. She had lived in that house for nearly her entire life.
Settling down means stuff. Stuff means settling down. I’m not there yet. Every time I sit, I want to stand. Every time I sleep, I want to stay awake all night. Every time I walk, I want to run.
Someday, I know it happens to all of us, the fear of sameness will morph into a blissful comfort, and we’ll want the earth to stop moving right then and there.
That’s the day I’ll buy a goddamn couch. Hopefully leather.