A sophomore gives advice on how to deal with bad luck in the housing lottery.

This year, I’m living on one of the lower floors of 616, one of the Barnard dorms on 116th, in a suite far from the street-facing windows. This means that my window faces a brick wall, and my room has literally no natural light; in other words, I am shafted.

I know what you’re thinking: “Why should I care about your inherently unnatural living situation? What does it matter to me if when you wake up you don’t know if it’s sunny, raining, or still nighttime until you step outside?” My answer: the housing lottery is fast approaching. When I was a bright-eyed freshman I, too, thought that the battle for a healthy dose of vitamin D was never one I would need to engage in. Then, one day, you get the second-to-worst possible number in the lottery, and everything changes.

The Barnard housing lottery is war, man, and today I’m going to teach you what to do if (when?) you lose. Here is my survival guide to being shafted.

  1. Buy lamps. Lots of them. Besides the meager overhead light that came with the dorm, my room is illuminated by two desk lamps, a ducky nightlight, an anime figurine whose body glows, and one of those depression lights that my roommate’s mom bought because she was worried about us. This makes the room look a little bit like if Jill Byers tried to communicate with Will but didn’t have any Christmas lights handy, but at least my roommate and I can see enough to read.
  2. Mooch off of your friends with access to sunlight. I remember my eye began to twitch the moment I first walked into my friends’ double in 600 and saw their floor-to-ceiling window that bathed their room in yellow sun. Luckily, my friends very generously allow me to spend almost every second possible on their sunny floor instead of my gray one. It’s gotten to the point that when a new RA moved into their suite she initially thought I lived there, and I am no doubt annoying the other residents, but I feel that they are obligated to use their position of privilege (waking up and seeing the sun) to help the less fortunate (me).
  3. Accept that you will sleep in every day. As a freshman I woke up every day, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, smiling at my view of the sunrise over the Columbia campus and ready for my 8:40 in Milbank. Now I’m lucky if I’m up ten minutes before my first class. It’s only natural for your body to want to sleep when it’s dark out, and when you’re shafted, it will always be dark out.
  4. Pretend you are a burrowing fox living in a hole to escape hunters and the cold, cold winter. Life is all about romanticizing what you have. The options for romanticizing my living situation were either this or pretending to be Cervantes jailed in Seville, and I never cared much for Don Quijote. When I end my bright trip to the grocery store and enter my greige suite, I pretend I have just narrowly escaped angry farmers and brought my prey back to my family, a dozen feet under the dirt. The brick wall is the soil surrounding us and I try to be grateful for its warmth and security from the hostile world above. My wife is getting irritated by my increasingly risky attempts to steal from the neighboring farmers. But I don’t want to live in a hole anymore. 
  5. Consider starting antidepressants. The Furman Counseling website is here.
  6. Try to look on the “bright” side of things. You can change in front of the windows with the blinds open if you adopt an “if I can’t see them, they can’t see me” mentality. Falling asleep is so easy that you can abandon your melatonin and Ambien. Rainy days seem less depressing because when you’re inside you can just pretend it’s sunny out. You’re probably going to become really good at drawing bricks from memory.
  7. Build a support network of other shafted friends. Misery loves company, so I was happy to learn that two of my close friends ended up shafted as well in the room exactly above my roommate and I. They reiterate the need for lamps, they also frequently migrate to other Barnard suites to reap the benefits of sunlight, and much of my advice given here comes from them. We have long discussed trying to speak to each other in Morse code using our ceiling/their floor, so we could say things like, “I miss the sun,” “Do you know what the weather is?” “I’m slowly turning into a naked mole rat,” but so far we have met obstructions such as a) not knowing Morse code and b) not having anything long enough to tap the ceiling. 

This is all the advice I can give you. Happy housing lottery, and may the odds be ever in your favor. If they aren’t, at least now you know what to do!

Image via Barnard Res Life