By Jessica Marie Clayton
Roommates are one of the biggest challenges that we have to overcome in college because we are forced to coincide with complete strangers in tiny living spaces for eight or nine months. Sometimes, you are able to get lucky and get an old high school friend to be your roommate, but even that situation presents unique struggles and problems that are unavoidable.
For the most part, however, roommate assignments occur randomly, which means you have absolutely no say in who you have to share your safe space with. Of course resident assistants and other figures in authority promote roommate agreements at the very beginning of each move in period to prevent some roommate disparities, but those agreements become null and void two or three months later when people become comfortable and patience for their true problematic behaviors begin to run short.
So what’s the bottom line here?
Being a roommate involves realizing that you can’t live in the same manner as you once lived while at home during your high school years. Things such as burning candles, coming in at late hours of the night, sleeping in the nude, not cleaning up after yourself, and things of the sort can’t continue while living in close quarters with another human being that you don’t even know.
Too often you witness horrible random roommate assignments because there’s typically no common ground reached between the two individuals and neither want to compromise. In order to have a harmonious atmosphere behind the closed door of your dorm room, there’s an unspoken requirement that both roommates must be considerate and hold a certain level of respect when it comes to thinking of the other person, which goes beyond the stipulations on the paper roommate agreement.
By being mindful of your actions, you can avoid a hostile environment because you won’t be unwittingly stepping on the toes of your potentially quieter, less confrontational roommate.
Being considerate involves getting to know your roommate and their routine. If your roommate is a light sleeper and tends to go to sleep early to make their morning classes, it’s considerate of you to try your hardest to make as little noise as possible if coming in the room after they have already gone to bed. This may involve getting creative to not disturb them by turning on a flashlight instead of an actual light so you can see, but it is much appreciated by your roommate and the same courtesy will be given back to you when they quietly wake up and leave before you do.
Problems arise when one roommate is inconsiderate of the other, and this could result in long lasting resentment.
Personally, I put my best foot forward to be a considerate roommate. I try my hardest to not wake my slumbering roommate as I get up and dress myself for my respective 8am and 9am classes, and I’m considerate of her whenever I’m coming back into the room to take a nap.
Of course there are some days when I can feel myself growing to resent my roommate, but as time ticks onward, I realize that the few slight annoyances that I have with her are not important when it comes down to the bottom line of living together. We respect each other’s things, we give each other our necessary space, and we have an understanding about the overall cleanliness of the room that make the little things easier to ignore. Over the past three months, we have grown from being complete strangers to burgeoning friends.
Although it’s easy to get wrapped up in the miniscule details about living with another person in such close confines, it is important to remember that things could definitely be worse. No matter how many times my roommate wakes me up in the middle of the night, I could be in a worse situation and be roommates with a thief or even someone who didn’t respect me as a person.
Instead of being considerate of keeping her side clean, my roommate could be extremely messy and disorganized. Or she could be antisocial and never want to leave our room. So the times when I feel myself getting frustrated at her, I take a deep breath and think about the alternatives and realize that I wouldn’t be as happy if things were different.
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that people come into our lives to teach us life lessons to shape our futures. Despite the immediate, and involuntary, adjustment to living with a complete stranger, there are important life lessons to take away from the college experience which mostly center around trust, patience, and tolerance.
Once we begin to learn to accept our roommates the way they are, flaws and all, we will be able to take those lessons and institute them into other parts of our lives.