I've given a fair amount of college-related advice in the past, but today, I've decided to go into detail about living with roommates (and/or suitemates). This is a uniquely difficult part of living away from home for the first time, because you're accustomed to the way your family does things. It takes a real adjustment to live with people who were raised differently. (All the more so if you didn't share a room at home.) Some of the biggest issues I had in college were related to roommates. So I thought I'd give you a peek into the experience.
I was raised in a family where cleanliness is not a terribly high priority. The guys in our family tend to be very messy and rather unaware of the fact that other people have to live in the same house. The girls are a bit more self-aware and better at cleaning up obvious messes, but even we aren't the sort to scrub walls and polish silverware. I do pretty good at keeping my own space clean, but due to my fibromyalgia, post-9th grade, I didn't do many household chores.
My family's also not the sort to have "family time"--we do better one on one. We don't have guests or visitors very often, due to my youngest brother's autism and the fact that the rest of us are introverts. I spend most of my free time alone in my room, and after elementary school, being the only daughter, I didn't share my room with anyone. Thanks to the fibromyalgia, I had to go to bed early so I could make it to school, and my family was pretty respectful of that.
That was my personal experience in living with others prior to having roommates. When I went to college, I discovered that other people had very different experiences, and this affected not only their actions, but their expectations for the people they lived with. Thus my number one rule for having roommates is to be respectful of different people's experiences. They might not know how to do things the way you do. I certainly had to have a few things explained to me--and it's always weird trying to figure out a new shower, haha.
I lived with people whose expectations of cleanliness were, in my opinion, unnecessarily high, and I lived with people who were grosser than me. I lived with people who accepted my introversion, and I lived with people who did not. I lived with people who were thoughtful about my chronic illnesses, and I lived with people who didn't want to accommodate me. I had roommates I couldn't get along with and roommates I adored. Basically, I've seen the spectrum.
Fall Semester 2012: My first roommate at Adams State and I shared a tiny room on a co-ed floor in Girault Hall. At first we got along well, both being new and eager and nervous. But she was much more extroverted than me, and she found my introversion to be a personal affront. She called me "boring" a number of times, which I didn't much appreciate. She also brought people over a lot without asking, and they had a tendency to nag me and call me "boring" as well.. My roommate was messier than me, and I was a bit grossed out by the fact that she left bowls of milk and cups of yogurt out in the room for days at a time. I could've managed with that, I think, but she kept getting pushier and pushier. The main issue ended up being that, with her social butterflyness, she was constantly coming into the apartment late and being very noisy. I did my best to manage, trying earplugs and such, but with my fibromyalgia, I badly needed to be able to get my sleep. Because of this, I finally decided to move out of the apartment, which she also took as a personal affront. She posted a rather nasty Facebook post about it, completely overlooking the fact that I was doing it because of my health.
Spring Semester 2013: I moved into a Super-Suite in Coronado Hall. I had two suitemates and no roommates, lots of room for myself, and it felt like I could finally breathe. I was friendly with one of the suitemates, who had gotten me my place there, but I didn't see much of either of my suitemates. (Which rather suited me, to be honest.) The suitemate I knew left the school partway through. I completed the assigned cleaning duties, and I decorated the apartment with printed images of things that I knew fit our various interests. Sometimes I worried about the remaining suitemate, who argued a lot with her boyfriend and also cried a lot. I could hear her through the wall. But since I didn't know her well, I left it alone.
Winter Semester 2014: After that, I transferred to BYU - Idaho. My first roommates in the on-campus Annie S. Kerr Hall--one roommate and two suitemates--were offended by everything I did. We went to the RA a lot. Due to my fibromyalgia, I had to switch beds with one of the girls, because I couldn't climb up to the top bunk. I also told them I needed to be able to get to sleep early, and so the girl who was to be my roommate decided to sleep on the couch in the living room instead. I think she partly did it because she felt like I was pushing her away, but it really was helpful for me. I'm not terribly good at sharing space, as you can tell! I felt so guilty about it. But I think that's where it started--they felt offended by the fact that my introversion and my health needs pushed them away.
One of the suitemates--the oldest one--was very Type A, and she did not like the fact that I didn't conform to her will. She tended to lead the others in their anger towards me. They got mad at me all the time for things that I thought were innocent: accidentally leaving a box of cereal on the table, eating Hot Pockets for dinner while watching Supernatural, having a panic attack during a social event. They considered me to be a slob, even though I was the only one who consistently completed the cleaning checks. To be fair, I did have an experience where my milk went bad because I'd never thought about expiration dates before. I can see getting upset over that--but they mostly just looked smug when I told them. It was a bad experience, made all the worse by the fact that I had just been diagnosed with OCD and was in the middle of treatment.
Spring Semester 2014: I took a mental health break, did a semester entirely online, changed my trimester track, and got my emotional support cat.
Fall Semester 2014: I moved into off-campus housing at The Ivy, with a really nice suite that had three bedrooms and six beds. The first semester I spent there, all six beds were full--and of course, I had Spartacus too. I got along fine with my roommate, though there was some stress in the general household. Once again, one of my suitemates had a type A personality, but she was more thoughtful and certainly not as angry as the first one. She suffered from anxiety too, and she mostly wanted us to have "family time" together. That made me feel like my introversion and my family's way of doing things were being insulted a bit, but I got over it. For her part, she became more accepting of my antisocialness. There was also some tension due to my cat, who liked to get into everything and follow my roommates around and try to jump out of the third-story window. I kept telling them to keep the windows closed, but... ! *shakes head* My roommate literally saved Spartacus's life a few times. In the end, though, even the dog person decided she liked cats.
Spring Semester 2015: I moved to the first floor, so as to avoid Spartacus jumping to his death. There were fewer people on track that semester, so I had three suitemates, two of whom shared a room and were best friends. One of those two was... not type A, exactly, but I suspect she might have been autistic. She had a tendency towards rudeness. She insulted me one time for being upset at sexist and racist jokes some boys were making, and she insulted me once for not knowing that you're supposed to tip the delivery guy (we don't have delivery in my hometown). She also really didn't get along with the third girl, who was quite messy but, I thought, goodhearted. By then, I'd figured out that I did best with bathroom chores, probably because my bathroom at home is so disgusting, with male body hair and pee everywhere, that these bathrooms seemed like nothing. However, the dishes made me nauseated, and that caused trouble here and there. The fact that Spartacus had figured out how to open doors didn't help either, but they came up with a rubber band system to keep him out. So that semester was a little tense, but okay. At least they let me be my introverted self.
Fall Semester 2015: The room was full up, with six girls, two of whom were sisters. I clicked right away with one of the girls, Becca, who ended up becoming my roommate because my designated roommate was slightly allergic to cats. We got along really well. She was the closest friend I had during college, and we hung out all the time. She wasn't quite as introverted as me, but she was happy to have naptimes together, which I was needing more and more as my chronic illnesses worsened. She also helped me out a lot with chores and cooking and shopping (or getting to-go restaurant food--I gained almost 50 pounds that semester, LOL). She was very caring and understanding and open-minded. Her frankness helped me to become more comfortable with my own body and led to me taking on and mostly overcoming my fear of anything related to sex. Becca didn't mind that I liked to hide out in our room, and her acceptance led to me spending more time in the living area with her and the others. She helped me through the grief when my disabilities became too severe for me to play cello anymore.
One of our suitemates did have a tendency to be messy and to break the rules about having boys in the rooms and to be too noisy at night and to leave the windows open--one time Spartacus escaped in the middle of the night during an ambulance call and got covered in car oil--but she was so friendly and genuine that I couldn't dislike her for it. It helped that Becca was there to stand up for me. On the whole, even though I was getting close to being the sickest I've ever been, that was my best roommate/suitemate experience. I still talk to Becca sometimes, though distance has muted our friendship. Honestly, I liked all those girls, and I'm grateful they gave me a glimpse of how a healthy household might work for me in the future.
Spring Semester 2016: During my final semester of college, I was basically too sick to do anything but schoolwork and sleep. I tried to keep up with my chores, but I know I did a horrible job. I was eating delivery constantly. I had only one suitemate, and I'm so grateful to her for her patience. We didn't talk much--she spent most of her time outside the apartment--which suited me. Not only did I get the space I need, but her silence also meant she didn't fight with me over my slobbishness. Once, I found a deodorizer on top of my kitty litter box, and though I might have found it passive-aggressive in other circumstances, I was exhausted and sick and just so grateful to her for making the effort to fix things without tearing me down. The only real problem I had was that she would listen to Drake and church talks and that one cover of "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" on repeat while getting ready in the morning, which woke me up. But she kept the volume down, and I got used to it. I wish I could apologize to her for what she had to deal with. I'm so grateful for people like her and Becca (and those delivery guys), who made it possible for me to get through college.
I'm grateful to God for giving me the mercy of letting me graduate before I got too sick to continue.
That was my roommate experience: the good, the bad, the meh. Hopefully you can take some helpful thoughts from it for your own future rooming decisions. Originally, I thought the problems I had with roommates were about cleanliness, and maybe they were in some ways, but now, looking at all this, I think my introversion and my disabilities were more of what people had a hard time with. So just try to be understanding of the differences between people and try to be flexible. Allow people to learn, and accept what they can't change about themselves. It'll make things a lot easier!
Thank you all for reading! I'll see you next week with twenty-five more underrated books that I recommend.
Images via Christa Grovel on Pexels, myself (5), Rebecca Martin, and myself.
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