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Look on the bright side

A series of realizations about light and dorm room life


In the beginning, there were the three lights: the usual central ceiling light and window, as well as a supplementary desk lamp from a friend. All three were much-appreciated presences in my room, but after some days it became apparent that none were meeting my illumination needs.

Waking up sucked.

I prefer to wake up to the sparkly sunlit morning, the one on the earlier side of the day. I’ve found about 7:30 a.m. to be the optimal launchpad from which to tackle the day’s enthralling obstacles. A window with open blinds is not. That delicate transition between the tranquility of dreamy unconsciousness and the harsh reality of the everyday should not be tainted with the sun’s blinding white light. As much as I love the sunlight, waking up to the experience of “passing over to the other side” can be quite disorienting, especially when your priorities lie in this life and not the afterlife.

Along came a blanket, a royal blue Queen-sized fuzz curtain that I hung from the side of my lofted bed. It was a pair of boxing gloves for the sun’s fists, softening its over-enthusiastic morning blows. Now through the diffuse, ethereal glow of the blue blanket, I could feel the love of the warm space ball in gentle, playful wake-up punches. It felt fantastic to finally come into the gentle, forgiving world.

Being in my dorm sucked.

Stanford dorms seem to be iconic in their sporting single central ceiling lights. As much as I’m a fan of this, I am admittedly not at all a fan of this. When I moved into my dorm room, I had what appeared to be a Cyclops’ eye dominating the most central location of my room, throwing bright anger in all directions. Normally this would be fine, but I intended for my room this year to emanate welcoming and serene vibes. When my guests and I began to notice how it made direct eye contact with everyone and everything at once like a ghastly painting, I knew it had to go.

Had I narrativized my actions as they occurred, I would have noticed the pattern sooner: I was sequentially softening my room. This time using a mandala tapestry inscribed with the universe’s intricate patterns, I macgyvered an eye patch for my dorm Cyclops. I like to think this was an act of generosity, a gift analogous to fashionable indoor monocular sunglasses, from me to my Cyclops. Now we both get to look at the world than through a mandala and appreciate the infinite complexity that is life.

Doing work sucked.

The lamp on the desk. Oh, it was so close to being great! Its flexible arm, direct projection of luminosity, and accurate yellowness made it an asset … an asset to the control freak that needs to tell the light exactly where it should be and when it should be there. Things move all the time, and a focused lamp needs to keep up, but adjusting a lamp all the time gets annoying. People should not have to bully a lamp with their excessively indecisive lighting needs or have to rest their hands permanently on the nape of a lamp’s neck.

But there were balloons. Who is to say what their purpose was before I nabbed and breathed life into them? Thrown upon the now upwards-facing lamp, they offer colored, softly atmospheric lighting without the need to move a thing. Cerulean balloon, lavender balloon. Both seem to offer different moods for different purposes: Perhaps the blue chases dreams in a calm and studious way, while the lavender wisely acknowledges the natural human desire for a more lighthearted existence. Whatever their purpose, whatever my purpose, every “problem set” was now a “party set.”

I never could settle on a particular arrangement of the lights adorning my dorm room. To this day, I constantly switch around the lights and the objects I’ve used to filter or soften them. I’ve realized by now, reader, that my discontent with waking up, hanging out in my personal space and doing classwork probably doesn’t stem from something as mundane as the slight harshness of light in my room. Real illumination comes from within.


Contact Coco Hergenroeder at codyhergenroeder ‘at’

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