Opinions, Column

Life, Flexibility, and the Pursuit of Oak Dressers

This summer, as I moved into my new off-campus house, I faced a great challenge: a solid oak dresser surrounded by its giant, removed drawers stared down at me.

It looked like a seasoned boxer with a few missing teeth, and I was the idiot rookie who decided to take it on. Even with my two friends, who graciously agreed to assist me, lugging it to my room was still a match between David and Goliath.

It took three people an hour—with Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina” playing on full volume— to get that dresser from the driveway all the way to my new bedroom. Once the dresser was exactly where I wanted it to be, I grew relieved it would never be my job to move it again. Now, I promise this column isn’t going to turn into some weird furniture rant where you question if I’ve ever heard of IKEA. Instead, I’m going to move things around.

The main thing I moved last year was myself. I was about to embark on a semester abroad in Milan, away from my friends, family, and all of the familiar comforts of my life at home. I didn’t anticipate going abroad in the fall. As a matter of fact, I only applied to spring programs. And yet, here I was, tussling—and losing—with a dresser before jet-setting across the world for the fall semester.

I also wasn’t even supposed to have this dresser because I wasn’t supposed to spend the summer in Boston. I was supposed to be working at home. Instead, I accepted an internship in Wilmington, Mass., and through some demonic intervention this dresser landed smack-dab in the middle of my life. A dresser with stupid knobs that always came loose and unfinished edges that dug into my hands as I heaved it up the back steps.

So much had refused to go my way. Abroad, internships, friendships, clubs, and oak dressers—they all teamed up against me. Throwing wrenches in my beautifully designed plans. I had it all figured out, but of course, of course, things could just never, ever, go my way. It was as if Life couldn’t see that I was a master of interior design, perfecting my future as if it was a Pinterest board for my bedroom.

But, the thing is, the future simply isn’t a bedroom. You can’t plan out every little detail and expect it all to materialize exactly as you envisioned it. In fact, if you treat life like it’s a showroom, you’re inevitably going to be disappointed and frustrated. Some things are just out of your control.

Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t have lofty dreams or life goals. Because you absolutely can. Sometimes you’ve got to grab life by the drawer-less frame and drag it up the stairs! But, sometimes, you can’t. And when you’ve met your match, whether it’s in the form of unexpectedly heavy furniture or a fall semester abroad, what matters most is how you handle it.

At first, I did not handle things well. At all. No matter how many times I heard “everything happens for a reason” and you can “only control what you can control,” being bested in Life’s gambit sucked. It felt as if Life had flicked me across the chessboard like a pawn. I was bewildered, frustrated, and helpless. Clueless to my next move.

It wasn’t until I finally stopped raging against the inevitable that I realized I’d actually gotten it all wrong. Perhaps I was more like the oak dresser than I thought. If I had just been willing to see things differently, to be more flexible and open, I would have noticed that everything I had planned was needlessly short-term. I was busy picking out Target organization cubes when I could’ve been shopping in the big oak dresser leagues.

What Life had planned for me was, unbelievably, even better than I could have planned myself. As it turned out, I loved living in Boston for the summer. I met amazing people and had a blast spending weekends at the cape. I loved Milan too, even in the fall. I made lifelong friends I would’ve never met otherwise, and I got to experience the world with them. I wouldn’t change anything about the last six months of my life, or any of the months and years before, even if I could.

Of course, it’s still upsetting when things don’t go the way I plan them to. But now, when I find myself too focused on how I would like things to be, I try to shift my direction to what could be. Sometimes all it takes is switching a few pieces of furniture around to realize the space you’re living in has so much more potential. There might even be room for a large oak dresser with stupid loose knobs.

February 5, 2023