Growing up

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Aug. 23, 2007

Dear Casey,

Congratulations on moving into your first apartment and starting your first real job. I know my mother thinks you're working in a Goth store at the mall, but you and I know it's just a store for people who are in love with music, and she is, too. The purple streak in your hair probably goes with everything.

Your apartment looks nice if a bit Spartan. Having no furniture actually can be a blessing. DC and I have chairs nobody ever sits in -- even the dogs -- and tables nobody ever sits at. We have rooms nobody goes in because they are filled with things neither of us uses anymore, things that once suited us but no longer do because everybody changes, things we've kept for a sentimental value now no longer meaningful.

Unused rooms and making space for unused things are probably unimaginable to a college student who shares a four-room apartment.

Sarah Susanka is an architect who writes books about making the places we call home serve our souls. Your new apartment is cluttered because you haven't figured out where to put everything yet. But the architect says real clutter results from habitual behavior patterns and beliefs we don't even know we have.

DC thinks every minute of her waking life should be busy, so she overcommits herself and ends up frustrated when she can't get everything done. This approach rarely leaves her time to do the things that are most meaningful to her.

"I just ran out of time," she often says. I have threatened to put the words on her tombstone.

I have kept every personal letter ever written to me, every band T-shirt that represents a period of my life. The letters probably never will be read again and the T-shirts won't be worn. But there they are filling boxes and closets, testaments perhaps to my own tendency to romanticize what was at the expense of what is.

We're still growing up, too.

I hope the tables and chairs DC sent make your place a little more homey. Your grandmother plans to take you second-hand furniture shopping soon. Nothing in your apartment will match. That's the point of college, mixing and matching with people and ideas and figuring out which are for you and which aren't. Staying open to the possibility that a chair that looks good might not be the most comfortable. The same could be true for boyfriends.

Your uncle's first college apartment contained the traditional cable spool table, the mattress on the floor, the defeated couch, carpeting a shade of green that does not exist in nature, three roommates and a kitchen visited only when we played poker and drank beer on Thursday nights.

It's best when roommates have something in common. Three of us played in the same r&b band. The other roommate, Marc, listened to Bob Dylan and was the coolest person we knew because he didn't give a flip about bands or college or money or the pretty girls who were after him. As cool as it is, I would suggest that not caring is a phase most college students go through to some extent. Even Goths get through it.

After moving into my first college apartment I still took my laundry to my parents' house and ate supper there. It was almost like leaving home.

Sometimes we went to classes.

College looks different now. The price of an education is so much higher that the idea of cutting a class must seem ridiculous. Rotting brain cells with alcohol must sound foolish. Wasting time on boys must not even be a temptation.

I'm sure you'll be too busy for parties. Not with so much Shakespeare to read and Old Masters to appreciate.

A first apartment is a first taste of independence. Let being there help you find out who you are. Make home a place that nurtures you, where you can hear your true self think. Once in a while turn the music off and listen.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is a reporter for the Southeast Missourian.

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