Such is what we call the English common room at my university. It’s got posters of Shakespeare, Hemingway, Reservoir Dogs, Sirius Black, some notifications for live readings, an influence chart of the great novelists, and a densely-packed bookshelf. There is also a coffee pot, mini fridge, sofas, magnetic poetry–the works. It’s my home away from school.
When you begin spending time in a limited space amidst other likeminded individuals, an unspoken battle for dominance occurs until everyone manages to play it cool and recognize that we’re not Dostoevskian doubles of one other but individuals with our own strengths and weaknesses. This leads to friendship, and romance, and gossip, and all the melodrama you could want. Not that I want melodrama.
My university experience has been some of the best years of my life, thanks largely in part to this little room. As a solitary person with solitary interests and hobbies, it’s not easy for me to become embedded in any kind of social sphere, but thanks to a few enthusiastic, bubbly individuals I have since become a familiar, potentially even welcome, face. I can chat with interesting people, I can play Cards Against Humanity with a huge group, I can go to impromptu movies with a ragtag assortment of loungers (The End of the Tour is fantastic), I can host creative writing meetings, and I can sit by myself and read if I so choose. It’s a beautiful place, and I’ll miss it when I’m gone.
I wonder what my four-and-a-half years of school would have been like without it. What kind of person I would be. Still quiet, still reserved (more than usual), still only reading fantasy novels, with gaming one of my only hobbies. Or maybe my lack of social distraction would have made me a much better student, and I would have gone much further academically.
What will I do when I no longer have this place? It’s my Cheers–everybody knows my name (or an approximate nickname, such as “The Beard”). There is no equivalent social space outside of university. Everyone has a reason to go to the lit lounge because they have to spend hours in the building every weekday anyway and might as well have some place to go between classes. To make a coffee shop or even someone’s apartment as an open-door hangout space doesn’t work as well when we all start to live real lives.
It saddens me. I want to find a way to make the lit lounge live on. Because I’m selfish, I suppose.