What I learned from having roommates

It’s my last week with roommates — the first time I’ve had roommates since 2010. There’s been some really fun times, times when things went so smoothly. …And then there’s been some struggles.

As I mentioned before, I’d been sort of hesitant about getting roommates again because I’d had some bad experiences. Like, no longer best friends bad experiences. Since I’d been living on my own for a while now, I wasn’t sure I’d be the greatest at adapting and being flexible.

With one of the roommates, things went really well. We were just acquaintances prior to her moving in, and I think that helped a lot. If things didn’t work out, it was just 3 months and whatever — we might see each other in the lab or in classes, but it wouldn’t be a huge deal. However, we had enough shared interests (and tv shows) as well as compatible personalities, that we get along great. We enjoy hanging out together, but also respect that whole “alone time” thing. I think she and I could be roommates on a long-term.

With the other roommate, though… It’s been a challenge. I don’t dislike her, and we’re capable of hanging out and enjoying ourselves. But, we’re distinctively less compatible as roommates.

After a lot of frustration and some reflection, I realized a lot of it came down to expectations. Prior to either of them moving in, this one claimed to be “OCD clean.” In fact, the other roommate and I actually had conversations about how we wanted to make sure we pulled our weight so our other roommate wouldn’t feel compelled to clean up after us. Yet, it’s been the exact opposite. We’ve both done her dishes for her. And I know for sure I’ve cleaned the stove, counter tops, and my new vintage table after her. I hate doing it, too. Not that I hate the extra cleaning, but I don’t want her to feel I’m mad at her.

Because the thing is, I’m not really mad at her — mostly just her actions. She’s a totally nice person, but not that considerate and sort of thoughtless of a roommate. And it’s a shame that this is the way she’s coming off. Especially since I know a lot of it is driven by her mental and emotional health. However, that’s another issue in and of itself. I do not in any way fault her for having problems; we all do. But that’s the thing: we all do. And it feels like only hers are taken into consideration. She’s not aware of how her actions effect us. Even though I explicitly pointed this out, with examples, in a letter to her, it doesn’t seem to have stuck in at all. Which is kind of exhausting on my end.

In fact, right now we’re dealing with the fact that one of her compulsions is meal planning. So she bought (yet again) a shit ton of food. I do not have a full size fridge — and there are three of us here. So the other two of us have to rearrange our own meals and cooking because there’s just no room for leftovers. It’s slowly going down, but really, a meal I’d been wanting to cook for a week, I haven’t been able to, and it bums me out. (Especially because I’ve really been too broke to get ingredients to truly cook this summer, so this was going to be one of the few fun meals for me.)

It’s all sort of hard, because we did set out a roommate agreement in the beginning of the summer. We talked about expectations, and we agreed upon the terms. We’ve also talked numerous times about things like the dishes, and respecting other’s belongings, and checking in with each other about having guests, and just so. many. things. I don’t like feeling like we’re ganging up on her. Or that I don’t like her. I don’t like confronting her on these issues. And often I don’t know how to approach them so I avoid them — because I don’t want to hurt her feelings, let alone set off her anxiety or depression. I battle those things too, so I know how hard it can be sometimes.

A lot of this just reaffirmed to me that some people shouldn’t be roommates. I’ll chalk a lot of it up to the age difference and the fact that I have 12-14 years of adulting on them both. They may be entering their junior year of college, but they are still brand new to this whole “being an adult” thing. It’s not the easiest of transitions, nor is it a quick one either. So I’ve got to be a bit forgiving to some extent. At the same time, yeah, it’s an age to step it up and realize you live with two other people and you need to take them into consideration.

But this all also showed me that I can indeed have a roommate and have it be a positive situation. I used to mildly joke with myself that I wouldn’t know how to really live with anyone else. However, it can totally work. I don’t have to be some crazy hermit cat lady. (Though, part of me likes that because then I know things are put back where they belong, and if there’s a mess it’s only my own fault and there’s no one else who has to deal with it but me.)

It’s going to be quiet around here without them. But school will be starting in a few weeks (omg) and I’m still going to hang out with the one. (And since the two of them have been roommates since freshman year, and will be living together this school year as well, I’ll see the other around, too.) If I did it again, I think I’d set up a chore chart, just to make sure things were getting cleaned. But, you know, despite the frustrations and hurt feelings (on various ends), I’m going to view it as a positive experience. Because in the end, I saved money, had someone other than the cats to talk to, and was able to work on friendships. Going to let those outweigh any of the bad. And in the long run, it was just one summer, so it’s no big thing.