I am a twin. Therefore, much of my childhood was spent always with my sister — in matching outfits, of course — and our constant proximity meant sharing a room too. We slept in a room half decorated with her Kim Possible posters and half smothered in my unicorn decorations. Although we had some arguments when she wanted to rearrange my unicorns or I thought her dolls actually belonged in the hallway or flung out the window, we got along well enough. I used to think because of that I was prepared for having a roommate in college.
But oh boy was I wrong. Let’s flashback to freshman year, shall we? There I was, thinking it would be a year of smooth sailing with my many prior years of experience of having another person all up in my business all the time from my lovely sister. But that was not the case at all.
Freshman year I found out that I was really, really bad at self-advocacy. Things would happen that bothered me or bothered my roommate and we did not have a healthy level of communication between us in order to fix those things before they got worse. Much of that was my own problem and my own unwillingness to try and dip my toes into the pool of confrontation because I was too scared of it.
From the start of my freshman year to that summer, I ended up having three different roommates due to my inability to self-advocate and confront issues through healthy communication. As I look back on my attitude then, I am filled with regret because I lost some friendships every time I moved to a different dorm. And I cannot say these last two years I really worked on bettering myself in terms of my relationship to my roommates because I had none. I was an RLA my sophomore and junior year, so I was blissfully able to ignore and push aside my problems in dealing with things with the people I lived with for those two years. This is ironic because as an RLA, I helped so many residents through their own roommate issues.
This year was finally the year it was decided I would face my inabilities to self-advocate and confront others. I have been happily living for going on eight weeks with two and a half roommates in an awesome — so awesome because we have more string lights than all y’all — suite. We have never stabbed each other in fits of rage, no one has stormed out of the room proclaiming a great curse upon their co-inhabitants and no one has switched out anyone else’s shampoo with vinegar and mayonnaise.
But things have not been perfect. I have come from two years of living by myself, and it was hard for me to adjust to suddenly having other people around me so much more. We have had issues with sharing food, sleep schedules and not turning off the alarm until after it has gone off for the literal thousandth time — you know who you are. Overall, communication has been a struggle. At times so far this term, it seemed we were all way too different in personality to ever be able to be not only roommates, but friends as well. Confrontation was really hard and awkward and self-advocacy came across as controlling and accusatory.
But this last week we had a lot of change happen within our roommate dynamic. Things were finally said that other people were unaware of, emotions were shared and some feelings may have been hurt. But after that, and much reflection, we were all able to come together in a magical night of 2 a.m. ramen feasting and not only talk about our issues in a calm way, but also then work through them — by literally rearranging the room at 2 a.m., sorry neighbors — until we were satisfied that everything was resolved. There is something powerful about ramen at 2 a.m. that cannot be denied.
Not only were my roommates and I able to resolve our issues, we were also able to remember that we are not just roommates, we are all friends. We are all pretty weird and that is what brings us together. It is totally normal to not get along with your roommate, and unlike freshman me, you should not punish yourself for not getting along with someone else’s unique lifestyle that may collide with yours. Instead, you should calmly try to talk with your roommate about the fact that there is an issue and see if there is a way you can fix it together.
If I had just opened my mouth about even half of the things going on in my life or were bothering me as a freshmen, I would not have moved around campus as much as I did or lost those friends. It is really hard to self-advocate. I totally get that —trust me, just because I had some late-night snacks does not mean I am suddenly able to talk about every little thing that bothers me now. It will be hard for you to confront someone if you think like I do; and if you do not, and confrontation is easy for you, then great! Please try and be understanding with the people like me who tend to internalize our issues — we are trying.