During freshman year of college, I spent a lot of time in this area on the second floor of Craig residential hall in Fisher Hassenfeld house called Craig library. Whenever I finished class, I would head there to study. And, chances where, there would be other people studying there. Originally, it served as a function of convenience. I find it very difficult to study inside my house, and Craig library was the closest common space I could find.
I made a lot of my freshman year friends in that room. If, by friend, you mean people you study with and occcasionally eat lunch with. There always seemed to be something going on in that room, so I thought.
But, starting sophomore year, I no longer have easy access to a common room right outside of my dorm. I didn’t live in the high rises like many of my friends, so there wasn’t really a common room could reach on a regular basis. I tried studying in Huntsman Hall for a bit, but I never felt comfortable there for some reason. Instead, I studied a lot in the Graduate School of Education building. It was right next to Huntsman and conveniently right across from the gym, so I could easily alternate between studying and working out.
In addition, it was also always filled with aspiring teachers, who are probably some of the most wholesome people I would ever meet, so I could easily leave my stuff behind without fear that someone would take it.
Some of the time I spent in GSE was incredibly lonely. Everyone studies in Huntsman, and no one seem to know about GSE. While the common room in GSE is pretty bustling during the day when classes were going on, it is surprisingly quiet at night when all the graduate students have gone home to wherever they were going to live. The common room was pretty big with many tables, designed to foster collaboration when the building was filled to the brim, but I mostly stayed there when it was empty.
You can imagine how this interior design shapes my mental health.
I remember during my sophomore years, the walk back home from GSE was the worst time in my life. First of all, I remember that year to be very cold. But, more than that, I felt that GSE took this space where I would be able to hide from the rest of my life. When I was home at 4045 Filbert St. it often felt as if I was still aware of my life. Time still passed with me. But, when I stayed in GSE, it seemed to pass around me. There was whatever happened outside, and then there was the emptiness of the common room whenever I would be there.
When I would leave this space, however, it seemed that I was returning back to the real world. It was worst on the weekends, when I could see drunk people living the life while I felt as if I never had that sort of pleasurable experience in college. It was nice and toasty inside, and I am always reminded of how cold everything was when I returned outside. It was one of those moments that made me feel comfortable being alone, when being alone and forgetting that other people exist was better than being alone and understanding that there is an alternative.
I knew the layout pretty well, so I knew the classroom on the bottom floor was always unlocked. This meant that I had a lot of sex in that classroom. During the school year, I did it because it was #edgy and #cool. But, during the summer, I did it because I didn’t have any other choice. It was one of those things I did in reaction to some sort of inadequacy. Since I didn’t have a place to myself during the summer, I had to improvise. Back when Tinder dates were still a thing.
During the weekends, I would spend a lot of my time at Green Line Cafe on 40th and Samson. I would go so often that the barista memorized my order, and on one occasion gave me a free drink. I was pretty unproductive whenever I was there, but it was a time when I did things for the aesthetic. There was once a Sofar concert there that I was emceeing for, and that was a predictable combination of both worlds.
During the summer of sophomore year, when I was doing research at Penn, I returned to GSE. It was a better experience with GSE, mostly because I showed my friends and they would come to GSE to work with me. It was also the summer I was taking ECON 104, which was the hardest economics class I have ever taken. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I would be back at GSE grinding away at my problem set. But, I had someone else to do it with me, which markedly improved my overall experience there. It was a good summer, yet I wonder why I regret it so much.
Every time I walk in, there would be a person at the desk asking me to see my Penn Card. It was just the policy of the school, and I would show my Penn Card every time I enter. At one point in the summer though, the security guard recognized me, and I no longer needed to show my Penn Card.
Today, I walked into GSE, and there was no one at the desk. Because there was no one at the desk, I didn’t need to show my Penn Card to anyone. It was an interesting change of events. I think someone called Penn Police on me, so I’ll probably be escorted out of here in a little bit, but it was nice to be here once again while I could.