These days, I find the lines are blurred between school and Real Life. A lot of people are returning to school while holding down grown-up jobs. Student life often means spending a cozy evening with your computer or heading to the boardroom for an on-site lesson.
Even traditional campus life has been redesigned for grown-ups. On September 5, 1999, the New York Times Magazine carried a story about life in the New Dorms that look like yuppie condominiums, complete with carpeting and what the Times calls “adult-sized refrigerators.”
Meanwhile, a lot of grown-ups who are old enough to remember typing their term papers are still living like students. Books, magazines, and loose stacks of paper are strewn everywhere. A Real Student secretly misses bricks and boards, although today they cost more than particle board shelves and are impossible to move.
When I lived in Alaska, I realized there was no point in buying Real Furniture. You could equip a ten-room house for the cost of shipping the contents of a studio apartment to the Lower 48.
I ended up buying a couch from a graduating student and adding an extra futon to the Bedroom Set. In my next job, I fully intended to do the same until a colleague observed, “Isn’t there a time in your life when you stop buying used couches from students?”
A friend had a similar experience when she visited a Real Furniture Store seeking bookshelves. The salesperson showed her a nice unit for $450. Seeing that my friend was about to pass out, the salesperson explained, “This is a piece of furniture that you will be proud to display in your home.”
My friend left the store in a daze. Somehow, she explained later, she had never thought of bookshelves as furniture.
Still, I see progress. A friend called to say he bought a house because he was tired of living like a student and was ready to grow up. He was forty-five at the time.
I myself have acquired some Real Furniture, including the Beautiful New Couch I bought twelve years ago. And I once had a grown-up lawn, thanks to my lawn service person, who was a student.
We will never succeed completely. My friend with the house just called to say that his two cats have shredded most of the trappings of his adult life.
I understand perfectly. My Beautiful New Couch has served as a place for me, my house-sitters and my guests to take naps, and the dog has carried out extensive performance tests on each cushion.
I haven’t been a student but the Beautiful New Couch has gone through a reverse graduation: it looks far more exhausted than its predecessor — the couch I bought fifteen ago, from a student.
For serious advice about moving, download Making the Big Move.