For the last year or so we’ve been living in a freshman dorm. By ‘we’ I mean my family, which currently comprises a three year old daughter and eight months pregnant wife. And myself.
We’re not Resident Directors, or Resident Assistants, or Resident Ministers, or any of the typical staff positions you find in modern, staff-bloated American universities. Instead I’m Faculty in Residence, a newish position at my university created for the purpose of providing evidence to the students that professors have real lives too.
If you were to enter our building you would not imagine it as the sort of place a married couple would be raising their young family. The lobby looks like a million dorm lobbies: drab, utilitarian, with some notice boards and construction paper welcome signs and a couple vending machines. The smells are also predictable: occasionally and especially at night, the unambiguous smell of perfume or cologne or marijuana; more often the composite smell of industrial-strength cleaners and dirty carpet and, on our particular floor, on which I am the only male, a lingering sweetness, the lasting fruit of a hundred female grooming products.
And yet, through the lobby, up four floors, through the fourth floor lounge, down the girls’ wing, a door on the left which looks like every other door opens not into a dorm room but to a cozy two bedroom apartment which we’ve done our best to colonize as a Real Home.
Our living situation has all the eccentricities and inconveniences you can imagine. But it’s fun. I wouldn’t want to do it forever, but we’re enjoying ourselves. And we’re doing some good, too. These kinds (yes, kids) show up at college only three months’ removed from high school. They’re simultaneously intoxicated with their own freedom and longing for the comforts of home. And here we are, a mom and a dad and a super cute little girl, not in charge of them, having no authority over them, just living with them. Reminding them of Home and Family and all those good things it’s easy to trick yourself into forgetting.
My own idea is that a college dorm, however awesome it is, is just not a good way for a human being to live life. It’s highly artificial and encourages foolishness. However much we try to tell ourselves that dorm life prepares you for it, It’s not at all like real life. Unless you plan to live on the set of Friends. Which you can’t because that show ended when these freshmen were in Junior High.
My hope is that we’re helping to counteract this dehumanizing aspect of dorm life. We’re a constant reminder to students that there are more generations alive in the world than their own. And we’re a constant reminder that what they call having fun and just chilling out is not always consistent with the sorts of things they really value and really want out of life: a loving family and a happy home. (And I’m not just talking about the ladies, here).
Here’s a section of our living room. It’s not bad under the circumstances: