When I first came to Michigan, way back in the fall of 2007, I was a very different person. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot, found an incredibly satisfying career path, met a great life partner, all good things. I’ve even decided that Ann Arbor is a truly lovely place to live! (Though, Boston, I do yearn to return to you one day…).
As an incoming graduate student in ecology, I was pretty overwhelmed, a little nervous, and knew very few people. But I made a really good decision right off the bat that set my trajectory in a really positive direction*: I decided to live in a house that was filled with other graduate students – all in different departments. There was Annie the Masters student in Public Health, Maggie the Masters student in Speech Pathology (learned what that was!), Lou the PhD student in the Program in Biological Sciences, Erin the Masters student in the Computer Science department (or was that Math?! Now I can’t actually remember), Mark the PhD student in Applied Physics, Nate the PhD student in Astrophysics, Josh the Masters student in Public Policy, and Katrina who worked in a Psychology lab. Some people left and some people came over the years. Nora joined us in my second year in the house as an incoming Masters student in Geology to replace Katrina who headed out west. Robin joined us the year after that with all her bouncy energy she brought to her program, another Public Health student. Choosing to live in this house was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
There were some troubles of course. It’s hard with a 9 person house to keep things clean. I’ll just say that our Public Policy housemate tried to write a paper on the tragedy of the commons effect on the cleaning chores of the house. Sigh. But, for the most part, the good far outweighed the mess.
We had some great times in that house as a group. From group dinners and “porchings”**, to our annual Halloween party, to canoeing on the Huron River, to a trip to my great uncle’s donut shop (Chum’s!), to conversations about research, to trips to the planetarium led by our Astrophysics housemate… and on and on, we really bonded those first few years I was here in Ann Arbor. Two housemates collaborated on a paper together (though I think it hasn’t been published… yet). What was really wonderful, though, was that each of these very different people brought their own network of people to the house – so we met so many people, new friends, all at once. And that was good for me. Gave me some instant, distinct perspectives on what people who were kind of similar to me were doing here.
I’ve been reflecting on this time of life recently as one by one, inevitably, unshakably, they up and leave town. This happens in Ann Arbor. The cycle is 2-8 years depending on how long one’s program is. Last week and the week before I attended three astrophysics PhD defense talks. The first of the three was of one of my housemates, and then the other two were his buddies I got to know through the house. I didn’t retain too much (though I did learn a bit about galaxy formation in the very early and then generally early universe)! But they were fun to attend nonetheless.
A short digression: Dissertation defenses are one of my favorite things about Ann Arbor. It’s so amazing to go to a talk that represents the culmination of someone’s research for the past several years. It just makes me so proud of the people defending. And those I met through this house really do feel like family, so there’s an added level of pride there. 🙂
So back to my housemates. While the last of them was defending his thesis, I conceived of this blog post. Really I was visualizing a map of where we all landed. So I made it and made this blog post to give me an excuse to post my map. The yellow marker is me – still in Ann Arbor. The blue markers are all my housemates. There are fewer markers than housemates because some of them moved to the same city! Two are in San Francisco, and two are in Pasadena (and… they’re going to be roommates as of this week)!
Anyways. I’m just feeling very happy today thinking about all of them, and I am happy for them that they all seem to be enjoying themselves immensely wherever each landed. So I wanted to write about that. In a year, our little yellow dot will likely move too… to where? We’ll all find out in March.
*The positive direction was not without some serious bumps in the road. Deciding to leave one program for another was probably the most difficult decision I have ever made. I am forever thankful that I chose to switch up my life plan. I never knew I could be so happy in a career – and if I hadn’t had the guts to take the plunge away from continuing on in a PhD to go to the School of Information, I’d never have discovered librarianship.
**By hanging out on the porch, I saw my then-future-husband walk by several times on his way to and from the hospital. Thanks house, for enabling that!