You don’t know you’ve outgrown something until you’re in it, and it feels much too late. That’s how I felt when I arrived at the dorms for my week-long MFA residency. Staying in the dorms with all the other students had been a good idea last year, but this year, I opened my dorm door to a room with the AC cranking out warm air, and the shower trickling out cold water. Someone else described the mattress as feeling like “sleeping on a bag of hangers.” Was I really cut out for this?
That first night, I dragged the mattress from the bed frame to the floor, hoping that lower altitude would mean cooler air. And I was fine until 2 am when I felt a tickling on my arm. I scratched, then felt it again. That’s when I brushed off what I realized was something crawling on me, sprang up, flipped on the light, and found a cockroach in my bed.
As I shoved the mattress back up on the bed frame, I thought to myself, I’m not in Nepal. I’ve experienced no earthquake. I’m safe. I’m fine. Quit your complaining.
But the little priss in me couldn’t help but think—really, really quietly—that I sure did miss hot water.
As it turns out, my AC ended up working fairly well most of the week, just required some fiddling, begging, and my faking it out. I never did get hot water, but it got to tolerably lukewarm, and that was far better than cold. And the roach, well, the roach had long since swirled down the toilet bowl with one big flush. But what I never got over was how easily I’d been ruffled by losing some of life’s little amenities. I’d always thought of myself as fairly low-maintenance, but there I’d been, out of sorts over nothing. Life had thrown me a tiny and soft curve ball, and I’d ducked and (at least figuratively) started bawling.
The week is now over, and staying in the dorms proved well worth it. I knew that on the last night, when a bunch of us gathered in the dorm lobby, pulled up soft and hard chairs, sunk into the couch, and offered each other jokes, corn chips, string cheese, wine and hard cider, new friendships and a basket of strawberries. I stayed up many hours later than I should have, and when I finally got to my room in the wee hours of the morning, I found my room warm, the AC having given out hours before.
I shrugged, crawled into bed, and felt nothing short of lucky.