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Can I still respect myself if I sleep on a shelf?

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How much total do you plan to tip the building staff this year?

My apartment has very high ceilings. Whoever constructed or renovated the place took advantage of this by building a series of enormous loft-like shelves. The shelf in my bedroom is big enough to fit a full-sized mattress, a few storage containers, and me, as long as I don’t sit up all the way.

It's true that in the six months I’ve been living here, I’ve found some endearing qualities about sleeping on a shelf.

My room’s arrangement—a mini-living room set up on the main floor, mattress on the shelf—is like a suburban home, where bedtime means getting off the couch and going upstairs to my room. My bird's-eye view makes me feel secure. I like that there’s no reason or practical way to make my bed, beyond folding my comforter and plopping it down. I like that my bed’s out of sight so I’m not tempted into a nap when I enter my room with work to do, on a rainy afternoon.

But it's hard to make peace with the fact that I’m 26 years old and sleep on a shelf.

What makes it even less defensible is that I’m not living this way so I can afford to live in a trendy neighborhood. I actually live in a semi-industrial part of Brooklyn, on an unattractive, noisy street. And I don’t sleep on a shelf so I can afford to live close to work. My commute lasts 50 minutes each way and usually involves strangers’ bodies pressed up against me.

No, I live in a bird’s nest because I just spent a year-and-a-half in grad school, spending money instead of making it and I haven’t quite recovered from the financial blow.

I’m too broke to afford to rent a spacious bedroom in a share, not to mention my own apartment that offers a separate living and sleeping space.  If I were just of out college, I might not care so much. I might flaunt my weird living situation as a badge of youthful New York pride. But I’m not 21 anymore. I’m 26, fully employed with a master’s degree in journalism and quickly becoming the last of my friends who can’t throw a proper dinner party or invite people over without fear of being judged.

I know that genuine friends won’t think less of me because of my financial/living situation, but I fear that those who don’t fully understand my circumstances (or the cost of living in New York) may look at my bedroom and conclude that I haven’t tried very hard, planned very well, or that something I did wrong has landed me in a tree-house. 

I know this is temporary. I know it could be worse. I know that my salary will increase. My student loans will disappear. My life will go on and I won’t live on a shelf forever. But in the meantime, let’s call it a loft, shall we?