When I was in college, writing my thesis, I joked that I should be paying rent to Mozart’s Coffee and to my campus library. I definitely spent more time in either of those places than I did at my house (much to my dog’s dismay). Neither of these places really served their intended function for me. I wasn’t going to Mozart’s to get a latte, and I wasn’t going to the library strictly for research or to check out books. These were my writing spaces. My thinking spaces. The places I worked best, and where I found that I could access the right headspace to do good work more readily than anywhere else in town.
Ray Oldenburg, author of The Great Good Place, defines places like these as “third spaces” — community areas that fulfill social and societal needs outside of the home and workplace. For some, they might be bookstores, park benches, piazzas, barbershops — humble places that center their lives.
Oldenburg defines such spaces as having the following characteristics:
— Free or inexpensive
— Accessible food and drink
— Central (within walkable distance for many)
— Community of “regulars”
— Warm and welcoming environment
— Congregation of new and old friends
A few weeks ago, I came across a previously bookmarked article from Apartment Therapy on the value of third spaces for those who work at home. Author Kim Lucian cites that “for those of us that work at home, the third space is really a second space,” and I couldn’t agree more. Although I work in an open office environment, when I think about potential future careers, I always envision myself making use of the plentiful creative co-working communities here in Austin.
My boyfriend has been working at home for the past few years, and his third space is somewhat less functional but has a whole lotta heart. His whole friend group has adopted a bar down the street from his shared home (he lives in a co-op with 20-odd housemates) called Crown & Anchor Pub. From day to day, you’ll see the same folks. The bartenders know our go-to brews and burger orders. Even I, as a fairly green newcomer to the regular crowd, have a few tunes on the playlist for Saturday nights (Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” if anyone’s asking). It’s the first place that any of his friends suggest when we’re thinking of a place to go, and in many cases, we just assume that’s the spot for the night. Earlier this summer, one of our friends’ weddings was rained out, and guess where we relocated? Yep. They got married at Crown, and now they’ll have free beer on their anniversary for life.
It’s strange to imagine how these places might move in and out of my life as I get older. Several years out of college, I obviously don’t frequent the University of Texas libraries quite as often as I used to. Mozart’s is still in pretty regular rotation, but the faces I used to recognize have changed. The old stomping grounds will always be the old stomping grounds, and there’s the promise of what might be beloved in the future. It’s just a matter of knowing that there will be something to serve as that third space.