In college, it’s well understood that some roommates will consistently test your patience, while others will seem like the best thing since sliced bread in comparison. We’ve all heard the horror stories. Maybe you’re lucky and have had the most amazing roommates throughout your time here, but even then it’s hard not to have your bad days. Personally, it took me years to realize as hard as I might look, there is no such thing as the perfect roommate. Any living situation can start to feel superb when you make the best of it – and here are some preliminary steps that might help you get into the right mindset.
Sometimes, situations feel a lot tenser than they should be. Whether you’re living with your best friend or with four different strangers, everyone has their own lives and their own personal things going on. It’s easy to feed off the tension and let things escalate. The more difficult, yet more rewarding option, is to actually have a conversation with your roommates if you feel like things are getting out of control. We’re all a little stubborn and a lot stressed, so take the time to try to understand your roommates’ point of view and just have a conversation, even if for a few minutes. A small conversation is a reminder that you’re still there for them, and their response back to you might validate their openness toward you and stop you from overthinking the situation. Even if it’s just asking them for the time, take baby steps toward relieving the tension instead of letting it fester.
Life gets busy, and sometimes we forget to wash our dishes or throw out the trash. We postpone vacuuming the living room or mopping the bathroom floor, without realizing that our roommates aren’t in our heads listening to us convince ourselves we can do our chores later. For all they know, you have no intention of doing them, ever. Take five seconds to let them know you remember what you have to do, you just don’t have time to do it right now. If your roommates are the ones neglecting their tasks, give them a gentle reminder, or ask if they need any help. In the worst-case scenario, you might have to end up doing it yourself. Don’t think of this as caving or doing all the work for the apartment. Think of it as maintaining your own living space for yourself and your sanity —as practice for when you might be living alone. It might even feel therapeutic or make you be more confident as someone who can willingly take on responsibility. Obviously, at some point it will be more helpful to sit down with your roommates, and tell them you can’t constantly clean up after them; you’re not their maid. You’re a student, too, and you don’t have any more free time than they do.
If, for any reason, you’ve just gotten beyond the point of return and can’t stand to be in the vicinity of your roommates, it’s okay to find sanctuary in your own space or with others around you. I once had a roommate who used to lock me out of my own room. There was one night I had to sleep in my dorm’s study room, and many nights I would come back late from the library to find someone else in my bed. My friends knew my situation and let me stay with them on more than one occasion. There were nights when my current roommate, who only knew me at that point for a few months, would let me share her twin-sized bed with her, because I had nowhere else to go. (Thanks, D!) The point is, people care; people will help you. Communication is the most important thing. You aren’t stuck. You can get out of any situation, and nothing is permanent. It might not be perfect, but you can find ways to get as close to that point as you can.
Shivali is a senior in AHS.