What My Roommates Have Taught Me

Since I’ve moved into my house, my home, my sanctuary, (or whatever you want to call it), I’ve gone through more roommates than I can even count on my fingers. Yes, I know that sounds sad. It sounds like I’m incapable of holding onto a roommate. That might be the truth, though. I do struggle with holding onto roommates. Actually, even in the college dorms (barring my first year), I constantly struggled with keeping my roommates.

I am difficult to live with, and I know it. I like things a specific way, and I like to handle things in my own way, too. I don’t want to deal with having another person crashing around in my sanctuary and making my life difficult. Yes, I know that sounds selfish, I know that sounds petty, too, and no, I honestly don’t care. I believe that home should be your sanctuary, your “safe place,” somewhere you can feel comfortable to do what you want and relax.

My feelings about home aside, my roommates, whether they were here a long time or a short time, have all taught me important lessons. I’ve learned that your best friends can let you down. I’ve let them down, and they’ve let me down, but no one is perfect. It’s unfair to expect perfection out of anyone.

I have learned that you absolutely have to communicate. Communication is one of the most important parts of living with others. While I was living in my house, there had been countless situations that could have just worked out if my roommates and I had communicated more clearly. If years ago, I would have been able to talk to people more effectively, I think that some of these situations would have had happier endings.

My roommates taught me that I need to be able to learn to say “No.” If you don’t have enough bedrooms for everyone living in your house, and you have people that literally live out of their suitcases on the couch, or live in the basement of your house, you might be taking on more than you can chew. I’ve learned that I can’t save everyone, I can’t make everything okay for everyone in the world. I can’t take care of everyone, and I can’t make their lives easier by just letting them move in because they need a place to go.

I’ve also learned that not only do I need to say “no” to people who are trying to move in, but I also need to say “no” to my friends sometimes. I’ve had countless people come to me and tell me that they need a place for their friend, and the people asking are close friends of mine. It’s really hard to say no to a friend, but I have to do it sometimes.

I’ve also learned that sometimes, your roomies just don’t want to talk. As I’ve mentioned, a house is a sanctuary. The fact that your roommates don’t want to talk with you doesn’t mean that they hate you. It doesn’t mean that they’re angry or hiding or that everything is crashing down. Sometimes, people just aren’t in the mood to talk, and that’s OK.

My roommates also taught me to stop trying to people-please. If someone owes money for rent, has left their dishes in the sink for the last month, or has their clothes sitting in the washing machine forever, don’t just smile and nod. Say something. Speak up for yourself. Politely sharing your thoughts may even start a necessary conversation.

I’ve learned from my roommates that both sides need to give in order to make a situation work. Everyone needs to clean, ask permission before bending the rules, and handle conflicts. This one is important. Extremely. Important. If your roommate does something good, tell them. Tell your roommate that you appreciate them. Tell them that you’re happy to have them living with you.

Having a roommate can be difficult. When you live with someone, there are bound to be arguments. That doesn’t mean that you’re throwing away your friendship. It doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of living together. It doesn’t mean that your arguments will last forever. Sometimes when you’re arguing, the best decision is for everyone to go to their separate areas and calm down.

My roommates have taught me that sometimes, your roommate is your enemy, but other times, your roommate can be your best friend. Those are polar opposites, but I’ve encountered both of them. I can’t say that my roommates have taught me everything I need to know, but I can say that they’ve taught me patience, better ways to handle frustration, how to love others, and how to step out of my comfort zone. I’ve had roommates carry me through life, and I’ve had roommates laugh at my failures, but I’m thankful for all of them. In the end, I can say that my roommates have taught me how to be a better, stronger person – the best version of myself. 

Sarah Dowell

I've always had a passion for writing. I'm an introvert and put things into words on a page better than verbally. I also love writing and reading.

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