Experiment #1: Living Rent Free

So every once in a while, I like to do self experiments in the spirit of making sure that I'm trying different things. It keeps things... spicy. I should have started this blog sooner because the not washing my hair for 3 months would have been a sure fire winner.

Anyways, I decided after I returned to from a conference in Alaska while living in Los Alamos that I wanted to stay for the rest of the semester in Michigan. I leave for South Africa the first week of January, so that meant I had a 3 month period (October - December) where I could either pay rent or.. not. Since I had a considerable amount of travel planned and a great deal of work to get done, I decided to opt for the latter.

What does living rent free mean? It means I bounce back and forth between Ann Arbor and my parents house 2.5 hours away. When I am at my parents, I... live with my parents (not too shocking). When I am in Ann Arbor, I sleep on couches, mattresses, floors, etc. I'm no stranger to staying at friends places and living out of a car, but it's been quite the adventure doing this for 3 months.

Test: Can I get my work done without a room of my own for 3 months? 

At first, I stayed with some of my awesome friends who offered up what they had to take in a fellow graduate student. This meant my sleeping arrangements ranged from a futon bed that apparently almost killed me in my sleep to a mattress in an unfinished basement to couches to an extra spare bedroom and bed (!!!). I loved staying with my friends, but the guilt starts to rain on the parade after a while. Also, I did really need to get work done, so I started sleeping in the office.

This began innocently when I started sleeping on an air mattress in a post-doc's office that she had to herself and showering at the rec center about a mile away on campus.
Air mattress in post doc office with sleeping bag

I must confess, this was totally delightful. I slept well every night, and stored things away before everyone else arrived to work. I kept my suitcase with clothing, toothbrush, etc. in my office for quick access, shoved a pillow in a desk drawer, and bagged the sleeping bag every morning. I showered at night in the rec centers which really weren't terrible. I was really happy with this arrangement, and would do 4 days at work and 3 days at my parents house (gotta clean that laundry!).  

The handicapped shower was the best one

However, nothing gold can stay. The post doc had her office switched to one with a key instead of a key pad (she swears this wasn't my fault). I found out by walking into my former bedroom/now someone else's office and quickly realizing my post friend had been relocated. So that night, I had to be resourceful... would I stoop so low as to sleep in my own office or would I call a friend? 

I decided to go full turkey and sleep in my office.
It's really not that bad
This was not photoshopped.

Thus, I became the graduate student who sleeps in her lab. The longest consecutive stretch I have done this for is four days, but my current (and final!) stretch is going to be 10 days. Your back starts to hurt after day 3 and you always feel a little gross. You do adjust to the weird noises and paranoia one of your 6 other office mates are going to decide to come into work early. Once again, it's really not bad! Especially for a girl who spends ~3 weeks a year sleeping in a tent!

One of my favorite parts of the experience has been telling people I do not have my own place and watching their reaction, especially strangers. You know conversation is going well, we're having fun, they've found out I'm a graduate student in space plasmas and think that's pretty cool. They say something like "wow you're traveling a lot, don't you miss home?" Then I drop a bomb, something akin to "Of course, I miss having a bed and something other than a microwave to cook meals." O.O !

My friends and family were relatively supportive until when I decided to eschew couches and start sleeping on my office floor. The reactions are now pretty consistently:

Let the judgment rain down

The worst experience of sleeping in my office thus far has been when it snowed about 10 inches and I didn't want to leave to go shower, so I went three days without showering. On the scale of world problems, that's nothing. I would imagine it would be awkward to try to date someone while living out of your office, but I didn't have to cross that bridge ;)

Some people around the office seemed to have noticed or I have told them. I assure you, it never stops being weird when you wake up in the morning, open your office door in your pajamas (from the inside) and someone asks you a question about research within 5 minutes. Never.

Verdict: No. I have truly enjoyed living out of my office, but it is not sustainable. I only sleep about 5 hours a night, and my peers would probably stop speaking to me if I fully moved into my office. I would recommend for a week or so, like while cramming for exams. However, I do miss cooking and having a shower that doesn't require a commute. I would probably not do this again, but I am so glad I seized this opportunity while I could. 

So this is #1 out of 3 experiments I had done this semester, stay tuned for the other two :) 

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