As I am nearing the corner of turning 30 in a few years, I’ve noticed that I am significantly more at peace. I’m more confident in my body, even though I was much skinnier in my most insecure years. I’m calmer, even though my responsibilities have grown. I’m happier, even though I’ve seen true cruelty, encountered monsters, and had my share of debt.
Note: This post is a continuation of Monday’s post about roommates!
The Perfect Roommate
In terms of roommates, I’ve lived with the elusive PERFECT roommate (alas, I got the dream job, and had to move away from the city we shared, and had to live with complete strangers, who indeed are not perfect).
This “perfect” roommate’s laidback attitude balanced out my anal-retentiveness well. For decisions I really cared about, we discussed what we wanted, but she was laidback enough to either not really care one way or other, or liked my point of view. However, she was also a rare balance of laidback, but also considerate.
In the past, I’d lived with a group of “laidback” people who sure, weren’t bugged by anything. But with that came that they didn’t really think about what might bug you, including your favorite food going missing, or that tube of Sensodyne toothpaste suddenly being at half capacity within the span of a week. Asking them to help out with something generally met you with complacent, “Ok….” but never changed their actions in return.
What I learned from living in a roommate relationship that works isn’t what I could do to change the person. It’s all about changing your own attitude, about honest communication and legitimate respect for one another.
I have learned that the challenge isn’t finding the perfect roommate, or perfect anyone or anything… It’s also not about figuring out how to change people, or find out their weaknesses before moving in together. And it’s not keeping quiet about things that bother you because you think maybe you’re too sensitive.
The challenge, instead, is having honest conversations. It’s about raising the things that bug you from the beginning, even if they’re relatively small. It’s about being the better person sometimes, and realizing that each person brings something to the table, even if it’s hard to see with the roommate who takes up every closet, parks in the garage (leaving you to park under an incredibly healthy pine tree that sheds its needles onto your car).
Speak Your Mind: The Right To Your Feelings
My “perfect” roommate was always up front with me when I did something ridiculous. She called me out when I was indeed being difficult. And I respected her telling me when it happened, rather than letting things bottle up for weeks, and suddenly saying, “three weeks ago, you cleaned out the fridge, and those rotten-looking bananas were actually plantains I was waiting to ripen…” Instead, she didn’t let me throw away her plantains… well actually, the plantains were mine… and I did explain that that they need to ripen before I could cook them for the communal good.
Anyways, the plantains are beside the point. What happened was that my roommate showed me with her direct, but respectful and kind, communication skills that she was asking for respect from me. In turn, she was respectful of me, and wanted me to share with her when something she did bothered me, even if it was something I wasn’t sure I had a right to be bothered by.
Quite frankly, I think the passivity with which I dealt with the conflict in my youth when it came with bringing up my feelings or when something bothered me always stemmed with me not thinking I had a right to feel those things. I didn’t have the right to be bothered by the things that bugged me. If my other roommates didn’t take issue with moldy dishes in the sink, was I just overreacting? Was I just OCD? Was I just a party-poopering granny for wanting to go to bed at a decent hour free of loud noise?
My “perfect” roommate taught me instead that I had the right to share how I felt, rather than forcing it to stay inside and allowing things to grow and ultimately blow out of proportion. She might not always agree with what I asked, but the very act of discussing our two sides and meeting in the middle taught me what requests were reasonable, and when I was truly being ridiculous. And ultimately I learned how to respect myself. I had never really done that in the past – I just did what I thought others wanted from me, and turned a blind eye to things that bothered me because I didn’t believe I deserved someone to hear out my feelings when I felt my needs were not being met.
So this roommate shared her needs with me directly, teaching me that respecting yourself is the first step in a healthy relationship, whether it’s with a friend, roommate or significant other.
In turn, she agreed to be the kind of person who shared in our household responsibilities, who did not blast her music when I was trying to sleep off a particularly unpleasant 12-hour work shift with creeps, and who wanted to do fun things together, but also gave me my space.
It helped that we had similar interests, such as going to yoga together, exploring the city and going window-shopping together, eating out at the yummiest places in the neighborhood, and cooking healthy food together. It also helped that we both had early morning jobs, so we both needed to go to bed early.
I’ve also noticed that it helps me to live with a fellow introvert. I am very social and have the human need to connect with others and do many a fun activity with others. However, at the end of the day I need some space and time to myself. Some people find this to be unsocial or unfriendly, but another introvert gets it when you smile at them and briefly ask how they are when you get home from a night out on the town, but that you then shut yourself in your room for an hour with some candles and a mug of your favorite lavender honey tea to journal, read, or watch a tv show alone.
Ok, so bottom line learned from this positive roommate relationship: Be direct, be honest, share your needs right away instead of bottling them up, and learn to be positive regardless of the situation you find yourself in.
I’ve tried very hard not to talk about my current roommates on this blog, mostly because I don’t want to be petty or use this blog to vent. I know that I’ve done my share of venting and complaining in this blog, but I do want you to know that I am constantly editing myself to make this a positive space rather than a diary or stream of consciousness kind of space.
I think that I’m in a good place in terms of sharing some of the challenges I went through, and am continuing to go through in my current living situation. So here goes!
I’m currently living with the most monstrous human being I’ve ever met. This person embodies manipulation on crack. She could teach Cruella Deville a thing or two about selfishness and major ego issues. Lazy? Check! Inconsiderate? Check! Manipulative liar? Check! And the list goes on…
And guess what? After a few months of complaining about her, of overthinking and being annoyed, trying to change her, and losing sleep over the unfairness of it all, I’m actually in a great place! And I know that I owe it to the year of practicing being direct, of respecting myself and of finding the positive in all things negative to my getting to a point where the bad slips off my shoulders much quicker than it used to.
I’ve learned how to communicate my needs, draw boundaries, and most importantly to stick up for myself instead of complaining in silence.
I’ve accepted that this roommate will never change. I’ve spoken up to make sure I wasn’t the only person taking out the trash, or cleaning. Of course, I’m still the only one taking out the trash and cleaning, but I’ve accepted that I can’t change this person.
I went into this roommate relationship when I moved from the East Coast back to LA in January for my dream job. I had only a month to find an affordable roommate situation. Living alone was out of the question since I was already spending an arm and a leg to move out to LA, to buy a new car, and to buy some furnishings for my room.
I searched Craigslist, and even had the potential of living in a house full of pot-smoking guys – who doesn’t want your suits to smell of pot without the high of smoking? (Yes, I don’t do drugs, and despise the smell of weed – I know I’m an alien in LA!)
So when a friend told me that she found out that someone was moving out of a house of an acquaintance of hers who didn’t do drugs, generally had her act together in terms of holding down a fulltime job, this sounded like a dream!
Sign me up, I said eagerly!
My friend warned me that this person sold a makeup as part of a side job, and that she was extremely successful due to her pushiness. She also told me that this person was actually her least favorite person on the planet, but that she seemed like she’d be an ok roommate.
And so, I felt that I was going into the relationship with my eyes wide open.
It took me only a few days of living in this house with 2 roommates that the Monster was indeed monstrous. She had taken over the entire house. Every closet and cupboard was taken up with her things!
Since I love cooking, the first thing I addressed was my need for space in the fridge and in the kitchen. I wasn’t asking for a lot, but if I intended to live there, I needed somewhere to put my lavender honey tea to decompress at the end of the night, you know?
Anyways, this was my first direct conversation, and the Monster conceded.
Then came out the fact that she was incredibly messy, leaving anything she ate and did with her time out for weeks on end. She hosted a party a week after I moved in, and unwashed wine-glasses remained everywere for a full week. I’d asked her to maybe put those glasses into the dishwasher soon? Ultimately, I went through the living room and kitchen and threw them all into the dishwasher while this person was watching tv in the other room.
This roommate liked having people over late at night, or taking “important” sales calls after 10pm, and conversing on speakerphone very loudly. I realized that I had to say something, so the next time she barged into the house at midnight, I got my tired ass out of bed, hair lookin’ fantastically confused, and asked her to please keep it down.
Turns out that NONE of her roommates in the past ever asked her to be quiet! I’m not kidding, she’s the kind of pushy intimidating person that people just walk around instead of looking in the eye to address.
Sure, change didn’t happen overnight, but guess what? After showing that I am not the kind of person who will just put up with her selfishness or inconsiderate behavior, that I would call her out on it. I never got mad, I never did the passive-aggressive thing by slamming my door at 6am to make sure she knew how early I left the house to get to work. I didn’t rise to her level, which seemed like her previous roommates did rather than engaging her in conflict or conversation.
I’ve also noticed that she has actually gotten to be more considerate and respectful of me as a result. Gone are the days of her barging in at midnight and laughing at the top of her lungs. Sure, she still has the annoying habit of only talking on the phone on speakerphone mode (I still have the honor of hearing both sides of the conversation). However, she is definitely mindful that I go to bed around 10pm since I have an early wakeup call.
Also, gone are the days of her leaving all her dirty dishes in the sink, or using my things and not washing them for days.
I genuinely believe that asking her to do something, then showing her the correct way to be a respectful adult, actually worked. I recently worked on my personal statement for work, and I started off my phrase with “leading by example,” and I do think that just acting respectfully, responsibly and with kindness will get you more results than getting mad or passive aggressive.
In the past, I would have simply accepted something like this without saying a word. However, I had learned some healthy communication skills from my “perfect” roommate, and used a negative roommate situation to practice my communication skills. In the end, sure, we’ll never be real friends, and I will not resign my lease.
Before I conclude, I want to point out that I’m still not perfect. I choose my battles, and I’ve lost a few. There isn’t some sort of happy ending from living with this person. For instance, I’ve had to adjust my life due to my roommate’s manipulative underpinnings. As you may recall, I’ve been known to throw many a game night and wine & cheese party for my friends. This practice has had to be put on pause since five or six of our mutual friends have told me upfront that they do not feel comfortable coming to my house because of my pushy monster of a roommate. They have found that tiptoeing around her and crossing to the other side of the street has worked more effectively than calling her out. And sure, if I didn’t have to live with her, I’d probably just avoid confrontation or discussion with her. But I’m glad I did live with an extreme case – it’s taught me a great deal about myself, about how I will handle future conflict, and most importantly about my own self-worth.
Sure, the relationship isn’t great. I will not live with this person another year.
But since we’re stuck with each other for another six months, I might as well appreciate the lavish palace I call home. My career is gosh darn near perfect. I have free time to gallivant around Los Angeles with my closest buddies.
I’ve had to choose to enjoy the palm trees in my backyard, the fact that I live in the prettiest neighborhood ever, and that I can go on a hike by simply stepping out of my house. I’ve had to choose to not get bothered when my monstrous roommate does something thoughtless again. My perspective, along with my thoughts, are my choice!
By focusing on the good, by communicating honestly, and by opening my heart to respect even the worst human being on the planet, as far as I can tell, I learned to find peace and harmony in my home.
What about you? What hard lessons have you learned from living with others?
Please comment, share your thoughts and let me know what you think. Please help me keep this a positive forum, though. I am so excited for some debate, but let’s respect each other please. I reserve the right to monitor and delete inappropriate posts. Thanks in advance!