Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Over There

For various nanosociologistical reasons, my family and I are temporarily living in a house that is not our usual house. Our usual house, which I adore, is over there, closer to campus. Our temporary house is over here, at a much greater distance from campus. Today I realized that, in my academic life (age 18 to present):

I HAVE NEVER LIVED THIS FAR FROM CAMPUS.

Not from this campus; not from any campus. Not as an undergrad, grad, postdoc, and not during any of my various incarnations as various types of professors at various institutions, here and abroad. I have never lived this far from campus ever before.

Is this good or bad?

I think it is bad. I do not like it.

Living near campus means that campus (specifically: my office) is easily accessible, in some cases by walking or biking, and it's easy to go back to work at night. Living far from campus means a commute, and decreases the chances of my zipping over to the office in the evening, or anytime I want.

Living near campus means that we can easily survive as a one-car family. Living far from campus makes this difficult.

Some near-campus neighborhoods, such as the one I usually inhabit, are interesting places with a diverse population. They are festooned with cafes and other nice places to which you can walk.

Over here, in my temporary, far-from-campus neighborhood, I can walk to a mini-mart and a strip mall.

What if I had to live over here? Would my entire attitude about my life and job change? Instead of being a happy, optimistic person with a sunny view of life and work, would I become an embittered commuter, obsessed with traffic reports and emotionally detached from campus life? Would I make voting decisions based on the price of gas?

How much are we affected by the details of where we live?

I use the word details to signify that I am not comparing being homeless, cold, and hungry with living comfortably in a beachfront mansion. I am discussing the very limited, academic context of where and how we live relative to our jobs on campus.

In fact, some of my colleagues live over here by choice. There are advantages and disadvantages to living over here, and everyone weighs the pros and cons in a different way. My colleagues who live over here by choice seem quite happy with their choice. It would not, however, be my choice. Not at all.

If I had to live over here, I think my overall happiness would be somewhat eroded -- probably not significantly, but there would be more day-to-day irritations that might result in my being a slightly more cranky person. I might have to adjust my work habits, consume more (or less) caffeine, and get a few more cats in order to maintain equilibrium. I would adjust somehow, but I am glad that I don't really have to, and my stay over here is quite temporary.

Academic readers: Assuming you have a choice in where to live: do you choose to live near campus or far from campus?

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