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February 6, 2012

“You look like Bob Dylan right now.”

I stopped and looked at my roommate. We were standing on the corner, ankle deep in winter sludge, arms loaded with boxes, bags and random knickknacks. My hair was standing about six inches away from my head, I was wearing at least two hoodies under my peacoat, and I had a beat up guitar case filled with shoes balanced between the curb and my foot. We hadn’t slept in almost two days.

“Sexy Desolation Row Bob Dylan,” she clarified. “Not 80s moustache Jokerman Bob Dylan.”

Sincerely, I said, “that is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

Then the Crosstown bus pulled up and showered us with slush. We were moving.

There is a fine line that one walks when it comes to sleep deprivation – and walking this line is often the only way I know how to get anything done. I purposefully wait until the last minute to finish everything, mostly because of the mandatory mania this provides. Project to finish? Stop sleeping! Deadline to meet? Stop sleeping! Apartment to move out of? Stop sleeping!

Not only do I become more productive, driven, and focused, but I’m also way more fun when I’m tired. However, this comes with a price. One that is paid with sanity.

In college, most people were sleep deprived to some degree, so it was fairly normal to be fairly crazy – especially once finals arrived. Oddly enough, finals were my favorite time of the semester, because everyone just about lost their minds at the same time.

Part of this was due to the stress of having to move out. My friends and I looked at moving as the ultimate Do It Yourself challenge. And, whether it resulted in falling down a flight of stairs or in not being able to see over the steering wheel of a Uhaul truck, we usually got the job done. Of course, unpacking was always a bit of a magical mystery tour in itself – why is the coffee maker packed with my sweaters? Did I really bubble wrap individual Post-Its? Oh yeah, I forgot that I filled this mason jar with soymilk and then put it in a box with my socks!

I always blamed these types of things on the insane workload, which pretty much scrambled everyone’s brains to some degree. But, finals were a dangerous time. People pitched tents in the library, bathed in coffee, and filled up all of the public computers with pictures of themselves making this face.

The dormlords left campus kitchens open all night and restocked all the pantries with things that were sure to send your blood sugar soaring – which is exactly what you need when you are hyped up on caffeine and have been drinking vodka and Gatorade out of a Nalgene bottle all night long. It was normal to be insane, and that is why it was completely fine when I became convinced I was Joan Baez towards the end of my junior year. I had become obsessed with Bob Dylan after writing a paper on Woodstock the previous semester, and I was supplementing that report with a 35 page paper on 60s counterculture and music evolution. I ran around barefoot in a white thrift store dress for the last week of school, titled the paper “Dig Yourself,” and turned it in with a mix CD.

I chose a different soundtrack while moving out of my first New York apartment a year later. Before I continue this story, let me just emphasize that moving in New York is awful. Actually, anything having to do with real estate in New York is awful. You end up paying more money than you actually have to live in a box with bugs and crazy people and things that fall apart.  You get so excited when your apartment has basic human things – like a bathtub or a closet or a washing machine in the basement. “Oh! You have a dryer! Here, take my last 9 paychecks!”

I shared my first apartment with two other girls for about a year. It was the week Michael Jackson died when I moved out, and, like the rest of Harlem, I was feeling inspired. And, true to form, I stopped sleeping for three days and did all my packing after I got off work at midnight. One of my roommates had already moved out, and I was using her empty bedroom to pack boxes (I had dubbed it The Fort) and practice my moonwalk. It was then, as I was dancing to “Thriller” in my underwear at 4 am in my sweltering empty apartment, that I heard it. It was the unmistakable sound of the Grudge.

If you are unfamiliar with this particular villain, it sounds just like this:

I freaked out. So, I did what any rational 22-year-old adult would do when being stalked by a ghost killer from a Japanese horror movie in the middle of the night: I put on “Beat It,” climbed into an empty box, and waited for my certain demise while dramatically lip syncing. When I didn’t hear anything else, I climbed back out and resumed my packing. And then I heard it again. It took three rounds of this for me to realize that the end of a roll of packing tape sounds a lot like the Grudge.

The next day, I moved in with my college roommate on the opposite side of the city. And then, when the two of us decided to move all the way back to the west side eight months later, we took a slightly different approach. After finally admitting partial defeat, we hired movers for furniture and big boxes of books. But we stuck to our principles and were still determined to move everything else ourselves, by way of 849082084 bus trips. We were going to make our collegiate selves proud.

The day before moving day, we packed up carts and suitcases and small boxes, and we shoved whatever we could into spare tote bags (us former New England college students have a lot of tote bags). We tried to wear all of our clothing that would not fit in boxes or bags, and I was definitely carrying some hangers and cat food around in a laundry basket. Our leases overlapped that weekend, so we were technically the proud renters of two New York apartments. But in a small ironic twist, this did not stop us from looking homeless.

We loaded up as much as we could carry, walked to the bus stop around the corner, loaded everything onto the bus (to lots of stares and a soundtrack of “Excuse us! I’m sorry!”), rode across the park, unloaded everything, walked the three blocks to our new place and up the six flights of stairs, and then went back home to do it again. On one trip across town, we ran into a former classmate.

We explained that we were moving, and that it was just like finals in the real world! But by then we were so bedraggled and loaded down with our belongings that it prompted her to ask a very reasonable question.

She looked at my roommate and me – sweaty, dirty, exhausted and blocking the aisle with the contents of our bedrooms as we shared iPod headphones blasting Bob Dylan b-sides.

“Are you,” she paused, “moving all of your stuff on the bus?”

We looked at each other. Were we? Could we? That old feeling of a DIY challenge came rushing back for an instant. Would we get in trouble for trying to load a box spring onto a city bus? Could we get two mattresses all the way across town and up six flights of stairs? Did we really need all those books? What would Bob Dylan do?!

Someone – I don’t remember if it was me or her or Bobby D himself – stopped us. Otherwise, we might still be halfway across Central Park, trying to convince one of those horse and buggy operations to tow our kitchen appliances through the snow.

It’s probably good that we’ve had a two year break from these types of adventures, because now our lease is up again. Our management company tried to raise our rent by 13% (WHAT?! Whaaaaat?), so my roommate and I will be hightailing it out of our 6th floor tree house at the end of the month. And, oh man, I never realize how much stuff I have until I decide to move all of it at once.

Bob Dylan would not approve. But, then again, Michael Jackson probably would. I’ll poll the Grudge on the subject, but I might have to stop sleeping for a week or so before that happens. (Challege accepted.)

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