What Living with Roommates Has Taught Me

I have been in a situation where, for a full-year, I had to share a room with an acquaintance from high school. We had never been so close or whatsoever, but we were admitted to the same university many miles away from home. While it is a very common logic here in Indonesia to call an acquaintance family since we come from the same city or region, thus deciding to live together was our main option; keeping in mind that nothing in our new environment is familiar for both of us. Moreover, our parents also agreed that struggling through a new life with family by our side was the best choice we all could get and rely upon. 

Maybe most of you who have stumbled upon this article might be experiencing the same thing. One question that may linger in your mind, what do we have to prepare before moving in with a roommate? The answer would be to make sure you are ready to open yourself to anything that might happen in this new situation – whether it’d be good or bad.  I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned about living with someone else. 

1. Patience could be an effective anger-reliever 

My roommate was pretty unorganized, which was the complete opposite of my perfectionist personality. So every time she threw around her groceries messily on the counter, I had to secretly assemble them up (although within a matter of hours they’d be back to where she wanted them to be). In a few weeks, my frustration started to boil over. It wasn’t necessarily because I had to re-assemble things over and over again, but it was this unpleasantness of always having such a messy space that bugged me. Pending up my anger did take a big toll on me mentally, which I believe happens to anyone else who might be going through the same thing.

Over time, however, I really practiced my patience. There was this enlightenment that had hit me when after a few days of controlling the urge re-arrange her stuff, (specifically, I trained myself to be calmer), my roommate started to show a little progress and began organizing her stuff. From this, I realized that my friend had her own way of living just like me, and I had had to learn to adjust to them just like how she is also slowly adjusting herself to my ways. Being patient means giving time for things to grow. Though this pretty much sounds like a lot of work to some of you, you’ll be doing yourself a favor in the long run. 

2. Tolerance is the gate towards serenity 

Tolerance means putting up with situations that you don’t necessarily agree with, which is closely related to having patience. Once you have patience, then you’ll be able to tolerate your roommate’s behaviors that don’t just vibe within your frequency. Like my own case, her messiness was the one thing I had failed to tolerate in the beginning but managed to do so as time passed by.  Once you realize that their habits don’t bother you anymore, you’d have let go of a huge weight on your shoulder.

3. Compassion enables you to forgive  

One time, my roommate accidentally broke something of mine. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember how devastated I felt. I think it happened long after I grew my patience because I had this space to listen considerately to her apology. Because we’ve become closer, my initial reaction was not pure anger as to how I normally would’ve definitely reacted. I understood her but I couldn’t stop myself from feeling a bit disappointed. I’d grown something else within me, and it was compassion. I allowed myself to sympathize with her and tried to put myself in her shoes to better understand what’s she’s feeling. 

4. Two-way communication’s always been the key to solve every conflict

I would never dare to say that I put in all the work to make sure our current household doesn’t run into unnecessary conflicts. Two-way communication is the primary key for avoiding conflict, or if it’s already too late, a great way to solve them. We had a mutual understanding that we need to apologize when we make mistakes or hurt each other’s feelings Truly listening to one another opens up a space for dialogue, not monologue. Of course, before getting into this learning phase, you want to make sure coming up with a clear head and heart, which could only be achieved after you learn about patience, tolerance, and demonstrating compassion. 

5. Improving self-aware overtime together is possible  

Now that you and your roommate have begun to practice two-way communication, then any general conflict could be minimalized. One of these conflicts I’m talking about is how restricted your personal space or privacy is when it comes to sharing rooms with somebody else. However, over time, you guys will get a hang of it. You guys will get used to how both of you would like to be respected regarding each other’s privacy or me-times. Of course, this doesn’t come naturally as it takes effort from both parties, and that’s why two-way communication is really important. You need to convey to your roommate if she has crossed the line, and she has the right to do the same to you. As time passes by, both of you will have learned more about each other, thus the self-awareness will have improved as well. 

I realize that these five life-lessons I’ve personally got after living with a roommate for a full year have helped shaped me into who I am today. I don’t think this is comparable to living with siblings because there’s a specific privilege just by being part of the family. But with roommates, you guys are equal—mutually mature and wise. You may be stuck with horrible roommates now, but try giving it some time. Try cultivating patience so that you could see things more clearly. However, if time still couldn’t heal the pait, pass it and move on. You could cultivate nothing within a toxic environment. We all deserve the best.  

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