Harper Livin’

For about four weeks in March and April 2011, I didn’t have what most would call a home. I like to say that I didn’t have a house–the world is always my home. Circumstances saw me out of the university housing system, and rather than move into an apartment, I thought it appropriate to have a good bit of adventure. I spent some nights wandering, some napping on the Reg vents or quad benches until Reynolds Club couches became available. Most weeknights, I slept on a makeshift bed of an armchair and three ottomans in the ever-inspiring, ever-dimly lit Harper library.

I didn’t have any place I could keep my stuff and after some meditation, I figured out what I think to be sheer brilliance–every weekday I would wake up in Harper at 6:30 and walk to Ratner to work out and shower. I monopolized a day locker with a full two weeks’ worth of clothes, my schoolbooks, and a blanket. In my backpack, I always had a travel toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant and cologne. At least I didn’t smell like I was homeless.

Aside from my toiletries, I always had my Leatherman multi-tool, which came in handy for making spoons out of plastic water bottles and such, a composition notebook, and Uniball Micro .5mm ink pens. These were my essentials. I didn’t really store things in the library because there wasn’t a sense of security about leaving random belongings in random places.  On weekends, when the library was closed at night, I would usually party until sunrise, find a bench or vent to nap on for two or three hours, and then go find a couch in Reynold’s Club to pass out on for six hours.

I did a lot of exploring in the Harper Towers last spring. During my late nights in an empty building, I found the poems and thoughts I wrote in my composition notebook began to focus on feelings of freedom and an adventurous determination to live! I really loved the invigoration of having no one place to call “my home,” and I felt as though I was getting all of the pearls this oysterous world had to offer.

I starting writing a lot of raps and recording them on my Macbook in the Harper classrooms–one night a security guard stopped by and commented that he was feeling my freestyles. I made some good friends with late-night Harper folk, which was nice because it sure could get lonely in there. The guards knew to let me back in from smoke breaks even though I didn’t have a working ID card and they were always pleasant.  I had a blanket with pandas on one side and bamboo shoots on the other, and one night I had passed out and my blanket had apparently fallen off.  A beautiful, lovely friend of mine told me that she tucked me in before she left for the night.

I had no cares, no worries, no stress–I lived each and every day simply for what it was. I thrust myself into a world where the only way to live happily was to thrive in the enveloping magnificence of life’s unpredictability. That was both the best and the worst part about the whole voyage. I gave up the comforts that we take for granted and plunged headfirst into cold, deep, dark, lonely waters. It was scary. Have you ever not known when your next chance to charge your computer or phone would be? That is scary. You’d think a body wouldn’t have been able to relax! And I managed. Taking that dive, I came up on a brilliantly bright, white sandy beach, drinking a Corona as the crisp, warm salty sea-air stung my face. I saw so many sunrises. I learned to float, as a leaf, on life’s river. I was free.

Unfortunately, my parents weren’t as convinced that I was living the Good Life, and once Susan found out and politely informed me that you can’t just live in the library, my Harper Living journey came to an end.  I then found myself subletting a tiny room at 54th and Ellis, and that’s a story for another time.

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