Living with a Roommate 101

Living in a college dormitory with 650 freshmen is something you don't just "woopsy" into.

I'm not sure how often you hear people say this about their jobs (or how often you think this about your own occupation), but... I love my job. I get to impact, love on, and goof off with college students on a daily basis. I'd take that over a "normal day job" any day. Except, maybe, when I'm trying to sleep and 18 year olds are outside my apartment UN-EMBRACING their INSIDE voices.. Then i want a normal job. Or a baseball bat. Or just lots of sound proofing. And some wine maybe. Oh! Or a puppy! Wait no, puppies and freshmen are pretty much the same thing.  

All that to say, it's that time of year I'm reminded how terribly dramatic it can be for some human beings in this world to be expected to live with a roommate... or "alien life form", as, I'm sure, some of them refer to their strange-mannered roommate. 

The past seven years I've had several roommates pretty consistently, and OH AUNT JEMIMA, I don't think I've ever stopped learning how to successfully live with someone else. Here are the TOP THREE things I've learned along the way that really helped me out.

In conjunction with the rawness I attempt to convey in this blog, I'll be honest from the get-go: what I've learned has come mostly from my failures as a roommate, not from my successes. 

1. Unspoken Expectations will always go unmet. My boss, Eugene, says this at least ten times a day and we all love/hate him for it because he's super duper right. SUPER DUPER RIGHT. A moment that stands out to me as a "Wow, we really didn't communicate our expectations" moment, is when Brett and I went on our first anniversary trip to my Aunt and Uncle's Bed and Breakfast out in small town Texas. We had planned to stay there three days but we hadn't talked about what we were hoping to do on that trip. I was hoping to read, take lots of baths, blog, journal, watch movies, eat out, and do some antique shopping. I was also hoping to drive through the outdoor nature center near by. I had mentioned my "wants" a few times to Brett, but really hadn't asked him what he wanted out of the trip. I had a set of expectations of what our trip would look like, and honestly, he had a completely different set of expectations (a set that didn't involve us spending lots of money, which was totally understandable, but not anything close to mine). Part of that trip was just frustrating for us and I remember Brett pulling the car off the road so I could cry and get my frustrations out. So right then and there on the side of the road, we set out what we wanted the rest of the trip to look like. We are still learning how to communicate expectations. We always will be. Whether it's how clean the house needs to be, what time alone together looks like, if we want the other person to go to the coffee shop with us or not, etc. We will both disappoint each other if we don't communicate our needs and listen to the needs of each other.

2. Living with an introvert or an extrovert matters. When you gloriously move past freshmen year and are finally given the opportunity to choose your roommate(s)--- choose a personality you can handle coming home to. Sophomore year in college, myself and three other girls lived in an apartment that had a palm tree outside the front door. I remember building forts out of blankets and sheets, eating cajun chicken pasta, and watching every season of Friends with them. We called ourselves the Super Single Ladies and made bets on who would get married first. They got me a pinata for my birthday. They were some fun girls. I'm not sure I was the girl they thought they were planning on living with though. I was crazy, extroverted, and energetic my Freshmen year, but changed a lot over the summer and came back to my sophomore year of college a lot more introverted than my roommates remembered me. I'd spend a lot of time outside our apartment on coffee dates or hanging out with the leadership team I was a part of, so when I came home, I just needed to be alone. I needed to unwind, think, and re-energize by being alone. But my roommates expected me to come home, talk, and re-energize by being with them. Unfortunately, I wasn't very good at communicating my need for "me time" (it's super sad when you take into account I was a Communication Major) with them so I often just came off as frustrated, annoyed, or uninterested in hanging out with them. I'm sure I was frustrating and hurtful. Maybe you'll choose to live with extroverted roommates even though you're an introvert. I think it's totally do-able as long as you learn to communicate with them when you need to just do you and be alone. 

3. Everyone's "clean" is different. My friend, Shank, says something like, "If the farm is successful, then the barn's gotta get messy". Living in your home means it gets messy sometimes. While Brett was gone for three weeks, most of the items in our house stayed in one place. I loved it. But if I had to pick Brett or a ridiculously over-pristine-looking apartment, I'd choose Brett. I'm not sure what it is, but when Brett is home, I tend to leave my clothes around a lot more and he tends to leave his books around a lot more and our house just seems to get wrecked a whole lot more. I've learned I can waste a lot of energy trying to clean up the house when I come home every day, when, sometimes, I've just needed to compromise my standard of clean. I'm overly nit-picky. And it's stressful to myself and to Brett when I want everything in it's place always. Why is that piece of paper out on the counter? The counter won't look clean. Why is that cup left there? No one's drinking out of it so why is it out? It needs to go in the sink. I have five pairs of shoes in the living room and three in the kitchen. His bag is in that chair again- no one will be able to sit there if we have people over. All these ridiculous thoughts go through my head- and they are silly. Maybe this tip is really more about compromising than cleaning, but I think you get my point. :)