Across from the overflowing trash can, full of multiple empty pizza boxes, lay a dripping carton of milk, each drop falling from the counter with a dull thud that echoed through the room with eerie rhythm.

The kitchen sink was a disaster of dishes and pots, perhaps waiting to be cleaned for years. Filled to the brim with soapy water, the sink reflected the flickering light of a microwave timer, endlessly blinking on 12:00. If a passerby made the mistake of entering this place of desolation, it would not be the burnt cheese on the stove that drew their attention, nor the many wires strewn across the floor, but the smell. A smell so distinct, even rats would not make the mistake of getting too close.

This room must belong to a dystopian future, full of destruction, looting and hiding, for such places are not made for human habitation. This room must be from a time where all kitchen cabinets were robbed of all food, and if by chance a single box of crackers was left, it would be a feast. And this room must be far from civilization, because only savages would lack forks, knives, and spoons of metal, and resort to plastic silverware for all occasions.

Alas, this is not a post-apocalyptic waste ground, but the dwelling of summer research students at College of the Holy Cross.

Maybe others will disagree, but my days spent studying 200-year-old manuscripts, researching the history of Irish labor in Worcester, has failed to teach me a fraction of what I have learned in the kitchen. I hope you will be happy to know that I might have exaggerated a little bit in my first description of my apartment. Sure it’s not much to look at, and I definitely should go out and buy some Febreze, but honestly its fine.

I had no idea living in the Williams apartments this summer would be a trial by fire. And I mean that very literally, because I have very nearly burnt both myself and my apartment while learning to cook. I have had to buy my own groceries, cook them, and of course defend them from the onslaught of friends who, “just want a bite.” This summer has been an indispensable introduction into the expectations of adulthood. I can now safely make a meal or two, I can safely navigate public transportation, and I can fill out expense reports.

I think back to the journal of one Stephen Littleton, an Irish immigrant whose memories have been irreplaceable to my research. As a young man in Worcester in the late 1880s, he took on a great deal of responsibility. In order to keep himself occupied, he spent days reading historical books in the American Antiquarian Society, and writing in his diary. When he was done with his chores at home, he would involve himself with the local politics of the Irish in Worcester.

If Stephen Littleton can do that, then I can cook chicken parmesan!