I will be the first to admit that I have the potential to be an insufferable human being. Sure, I try not to be – don’t we all? Personally, it can feel as though it would be shockingly easy to become difficult: self-centered, thoughtless of other people’s needs and desires, and holding onto an iron-clad opinion that everything should go my way. This potential to become difficult is something I always come back to when I contemplate having roommates.
I am 28 years old and I have a roommate. Throughout my twenties, I've had multiple roommates. During these various living arrangements, I’ve been closer to certain roommates than others. I am fortunate that I currently live with someone who I call one of my best friends. When we moved in together during the lockdown period of COVID-19, I was worried that so much time together would have a negative impact on our friendship. What I found instead has been a wonderful call to fellowship and community. I hope to live with my current roommate for some time to come, until a big life change rips us asunder.
Living in community has taught me about grace, emotional flexibility, and conscientiousness. With my roommate, I share my biggest triumphs and my deepest despairs. We negotiate kitchen organization and living room arrangements. We eat dinner together and complain about work. We learn what it means to consider another person’s comfort, even if it means not exactly getting our way. She keeps me honest about my tendency to leave dishes in the sink.
Especially during this past year of living, working, and being in each other’s main pandemic friend circles, we have worked hard to ensure that we both have some necessary space balanced with loving fellowship. I am thankful that a year of sharing our lives so completely has been a positive experience. This is not to say everything has been easy: I have way too many books scattered about our apartment and she has a predilection for large kitchen appliances that barely fit into our kitchen space.
Although, I do love that food processor.
On the one hand, I could say that living with a roommate is preparing me for marriage. Learning how to live with another person and honoring their different way of doing things seems like an essential marriage lesson. On the other hand, I don’t believe that this relationship is about preparing for something that may or may not happen one day.
Ultimately, by living with a roommate, I must constantly practice loving another person deeply and consistently. I practice how to set good boundaries and how to communicate them effectively. I practice hard conversations and giving feedback lovingly. I also practice receiving feedback gracefully and openly. If I lived alone, I wouldn't be able to practice these essential relationship skills in the same way.
As I write this, I am grieving the end of a romantic relationship. Sitting beside me is the Starbucks coffee and homemade blueberry muffin that my roommate surprised me with to comfort me. Later today, I'm joining her at Mass to pray together.
Having a roommate has been an opportunity to appreciate another person's differences and to compromise as an act of love. It’s a chance to go out of my way to care for someone when they are down, and to celebrate them when they are high. It’s a way to allow myself to love and be loved.