Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: Roommates

Standing on Middle-Aged Adult's doorstep has me in a reflective mood these days. My trial run at adulthood is about to expire, and it's forced me to evaluate my progress. Have I met expectations? Will the Powers that Be recommend me for a promotion to "real" adulthood, scratching off the word "young" before my title? 

Perhaps the most important question of all: did I make the most of the last of my youth?

No doubt these questions are inspired in part by the end-of-year evaluations that are coming up at work, but it's also the first time I've entered another decade while being in a position to do a useful reflection on it. When I turned 10, I had fun telling people I was a decade old for a few weeks, but that wore off quickly and I moved on with my life. At age 20 I was still clinging to my teenage years—the years when I knew everything—and was too flustered to look too far forward or backward. 

But at 10.75 months away from 30, I have some thoughts. So for the next several months, I'm going to document some of the pearls of wisdom I've picked up during my 20s. It's been a formative decade, with unique experiences I think are worth getting down on paper in a way they haven't been recorded yet. (You know, because I'm not doing enough to document my life. And because people just can't get enough of millennials pontificating on their barely lived lives.)

I figured I'd start with a pretty universally 20s experience: roommates.

Let me just get this out of the way right now—most of my roommates were good ones. (Trust me—if you're reading this, you were not one of the bad roommates.) 

Most photoshoots end in pyramid attempts.

Counting both sisters who lived with me away from our parents' house, I've lived with 12 different girls. Those girls came to Utah from seven different states, bringing their own traditions, expectations, and emotional baggage. We were all LDS, which gave us a huge commonality to start from, but blending that many personalities—often with no prior roommate experience to make it easier—was always a challenge.

Amber (the person taking the picture) made us these aprons for Christmas, and we loved them so much we wore them to ward prayer. Yay for roommate bonding! On a completely unrelated note, I miss those pants I'm wearing. They were so comfortable.

Of course, I didn't understand the importance of most of these roommate-melding tips until after I learned the hard way, but I picked up some invaluable roommate rules to live by as the years went by (many of which, I confess, I learned by breaking):
  1. Establish right away how you're going to handle chores, from who buys the milk to when the dishes will get done. Most roommate disputes will be eliminated if you follow this simple guideline.
  2. Respect each others' boundaries. Especially in college, you're probably living in a space that is nowhere near big enough to handle you, your dreams, and several other people, and the only way to survive is to respect each others' space. If someone doesn't want you to eat their brownies, don't eat their brownies. If someone has to go to bed early because they're one of the poor unfortunate souls with a 4:00 a.m. toilet-cleaning job, keep it down after 10:00 p.m. If you have a boyfriend, remember that he still isn't your roommate and shouldn't always get couch and TV priority over those actually paying the rent.
  3. Do fun things with each other, but don't forget to establish relationships with people outside your home, too.
I didn't have that many friends in high school, so some of my college roommate experiences were a shy girl's dream come true: staying up late talking about boys, always having someone to sit by at church, having adventurous people in your life who force you to try new things. At times I put way too much pressure on myself to be as comfortable around my roommates as I was around my sisters, and I never truly nailed that skill, but I learned enough to start knocking down those huge social barriers I had been hiding behind for most of my life.

Jumping pictures are a great way to loosen up.

It was also hard. Living in close quarters with the combined pressure of school, work, and a host of new adult responsibilities is hard on anybody, but doing this without having the solitude I needed was the hardest thing for me. It's the reason I had an emotional breakdown every semester—I could pretty much count on it happening either the first week of school or about three-quarters of the way through the semester. My car became a sacred space during that time; it allowed me to escape to Elk Ridge whenever I needed to and provided privacy when I couldn't get it anywhere else.

I was (am) a complete nerd who genuinely enjoys doing homework and takes "candid" pictures of myself when I'm having a good hair day.

I voluntarily put an end to the roommate phase of my life several years ago, but there are things I wish I had done differently. I wish I had gone to more football games. Gotten into college basketball when I was still a fellow student of Jimmer's. Spent less time hiding in my room. Tried harder at dating while I still had spies to help me and a humongous selection of dateable guys to choose from. Worked harder to repair awkward and contentious (not to mention stupid) situations. That I had spent less time looking forward to the day I would be roommate-free and more time appreciating how special the roommate experience is.

Some experiences are best shared with other starving college students. Such as gathering up your spare change and taking a quick walk in the snow so you can bask in the joy of 7-11 hot chocolate and Dunford donuts.

If I'm being entirely honest, the roommate saga of my life is pretty evenly split between the good and the bad. But the good memories mean so much more to me; I don't think about the hard times much anymore. It's become almost a mystical part of my past, a place where it was normal for people to knock on our door at 11:50 p.m., where Hamburger Helper was a feast for kings, when hang-outs seamlessly turned into dance parties, when grocery shopping and attending a singles ward was an adventure. 

Most of my roommate experiences ended in marriage. Also, this picture is proof that I could never be an actor/model; if someone tells me to look at these people I barely know (minus the woman in white) and giggle, the best I can manage is a "This is the stupidest thing ever" face. Which masks the "I want to kill you for making me do this" face.

I look back on those years fondly, so much so that sometimes I almost wish I could live in that world again, where roommates are your family and everything is fresh and new.

All was right in the world on this day.

But, I'm pretty happy where I'm at.

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