turn and face the strange

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My first roommate was my sister. I don’t remember it much, but I’m sure she hated it. She’s seven years older than I am, and I can’t imagine any self respecting tween enjoying cohabitation with her kid sister. When we moved into a bigger house, sometime when I was in intermediate school, I think, she and I became housemates, rather than roomies.

My next roommate was my freshman year of college. She was one of the friendliest and outgoing people I’ve ever met so, naturally, I didn’t interact much with her. According to the stereotype, we were supposed to be holding each other’s hair back at our first frat party the first night we met. Instead, she had an established group of friends that she, graciously, invited me to things with, but with which I was not particularly inclined to socialize. Freshman year, as I’ve not been shy to mention in the past, was not the highlight of my college career (nor was any of college, to be honest). I did not adapt well to the change and, because my natural reaction is to socially isolate myself, was not interested in making many friends. I did join a student group, however, at which I met my next roommate, whom I lived with my sophomore year in an off campus apartment complex. I had my own room, but I still hated having a roommate.

If I wanted to be nice to myself, I would say that I like things a certain way. I am particular. In other words, I am kind of a bitch and also will nitpick everything to death. Though I’d lived in the same room as someone the year before, living in an apartment space brought with it new complexities. My room was my space, as her room was her space, but navigating the shared area was where I had trouble. It was having a roommate, I like to think, that helped me get over my fear of confrontation. I hated dirty dishes in the sink more than I hated arguments. It may have also helped that my then boyfriend was, at best, argumentative, and would encourage me to stick up for myself (in less polite words). It was in this apartment that I first walked the fine line between healthy confrontation and being a bossy asshole. I seem much more inclined toward being bossy, these days.

My junior year of college (which was also my last), I lived alone. My roommates were a gerbil and a hedgehog, who had no choice but to listen to what I said. Or, if not listen, sit and wait for me to feed them. Living alone was enjoyable for several reasons, including but not limited to those listed above. I could keep the kitchen as clean or as dirty as I wanted, because no one was responsible for it other than myself. I could lay on the couch naked. It was a sweet deal. Nevertheless, I have become better at recognizing bad habits of mine. As someone that has always had trouble managing my anxiety, living alone was not necessarily the smartest move. While I could take pleasure in a lazy Sunday spent watching Netflix with no one to bug me, I could also sense how easily I isolated myself. I could play it off as a fondness for naps, when really there were days I could find no reason to get out of bed. My last year of college was rocky, by which I mean I acted a little nuts for most of it. Self-induced cabin fever, among other things.

After I graduated, I moved into my grandma’s house with my mom. It was a change not only from college, but also from before college, when I’d lived in a house with both my parents and my sister. My grandma’s house was one I was familiar with (she lives down the street from my old house), though not one I was used to waking up in. The period after I graduated was another strange one, during which I had trouble adjusting to the change. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in retrospect I recognize some more bizarre behavior. Until the winter, I lived in my mom’s childhood room with my pets, the computer, and a ton of my grandma’s clothes that she did not want moved. I was ready for a change. What better change than a house in Nicaragua, with 12 other 20ish-somethings?

The house I lived in in Granada, Nicaragua, is one I will never forget. The middle of the house was an open concrete patio, next to the kitchen. Birds would hop in while we made lunch. It was unbearably hot, but of course there was no air conditioning. There was no hot water and barely any water pressure. I shared a room with two other people. There were bed bugs.

It was great. I’m not kidding.

My time in Nicaragua, at an odd, post-grad time in my life before I had any real commitments and before most of my friends from home graduated college themselves, was time that I’m extremely grateful for. If nothing else, it proved that I was capable of coexisting with, not only, 12 other people, but 12 other people my age. I’ve always felt at a disconnect with people my age, due in large part to my social anxiety. During the time from May until February when I’d lived with my grandmother and mother, and worked at a store with older employees, and was largely apart from my closest friends, I didn’t spend much time around people my own age. I’ve always been the type to think of myself as an old lady but, during my time in Nicaragua, I remembered that I’m not.

When I went back “home” two weekends ago, my mom said something to the effect of “You’re young, you don’t want to live here.” The town in which my mom and grandma live, where I grew up, is the stereotypical ‘burb, where people from The City move to settle down and raise their kids. There were plenty of us 20-somethings (and still are) living there, but the town didn’t cater to us as much as it did families. We were like the 30-Something Gang, except instead of sharing soda pop out of the same bottle, we went to the same two bars every weekend. I’m not knockin’ it. I had a good time. But, as I tend to, I grew restless rather than comfortable.

The same driving force (anxiety) that led me to abruptly choose a college, to abruptly move in with a girl I barely knew, to abruptly decide not to transfer and to live alone my final year, and to actually plan an extended trip to Central America, led me to decide to try and move out of my grandma’s house on my hourly pay rate.

So, here I am, typing this up from my new bedroom in Brooklyn. And I don’t hate my roommates (yet).


Note: I’m sorry I haven’t written lately. I’ve been busy. But I promise I’ll get back into the swing of things.

xoxo Mary

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