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My life with furniture

These days, I find the lines are blurred between school and Real Life. Student life often means spending a cozy evening with your computer or heading to the boardroom for an on-site lesson.

Even traditional campus life has been redesigned for grown-ups. On September 5, 1999, the New York Times Magazine carried a story about life in the New Dorms that look like yuppie condominiums, complete with carpeting and what the Times calls "adult-sized refrigerators."

Meanwhile, a lot of grown-ups who are old enough to remember typing their term papers are still living like students. Books, magazines and loose stacks of paper are strewn everywhere. A Real Student secretly misses bricks and boards, although today they cost more than particle board shelves and are impossible to move.

When I lived in Alaska, I realized there was no point in buying Real Furniture. You could equip a ten-room house for the cost of shipping the contents of a studio apartment to the Lower 48.

I ended up buying a couch from a graduating student and adding an extra futon to the Bedroom Set. In my next job, I fully intended to do the same until a colleague observed, "Isn't there a time in your life when you stop buying used couches from students?"

A friend had a similar experience when she visited a Real Furniture Store seeking bookshelves. The salesperson showed her a nice unit for $450. Seeing that my friend was about to pass out, the salesperson explained, "This is a piece of furniture that you will be proud to display in your home."

My friend left the store in a daze. Somehow, she explained later, she had never thought of bookshelves as furniture.

Still, I see progress. A friend called to say he bought a house because he was tired of living like a student and was ready to grow up. He was forty-five at the time.

I myself have acquired some Real Furniture, including the Beautiful New Couch I bought ten years ago. Thanks to my lawn service person, who is a student, I have a real, grown-up yard.

We will never succeed completely. My friend with the house just called to say that his two cats have shredded most of the trappings of his adult life.

I understand perfectly. My Beautiful New Couch has served as a place for me, my house-sitters and my guests to take naps, and the cats have carried out extensive performance tests on each cushion.

I haven't been a student but the couch has gone through a reverse graduation: it looks far more exhausted than its predecessor -- the couch I bought, twelve years ago, from a student.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com or call 505-534-4294.


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