Saying goodbye to a cool and compatible roommate is never easy. I’ve done it more than twice already. But the new friend I gain when the keys are handed over and the bed is hauled away is a pretty fantastic trade.
I’ve been living with Craigslist roommates for 6 years. I’ve gotten to meet so many interesting people from different walks of life that I would have otherwise never come across. I’ve learned so much about different cultures, different ways of living and eating; I’ve been introduced to different genres of books and movies and music; I’ve found insight and perspective through other people’s ways and habits that I would have never encountered if I had chosen to live at home, with relatives, alone, or with a significant other.
In our fast and calculated digital world, it’s not often that we make room for serendipity to spark. It seems everything nowadays always has to be planned, always has to yield some kind of predictable, familiar result. And while that’s important in many aspects of life — accepting a new job, choosing a life partner, adopting a pet — I don’t think that approach is necessary for every aspect of life. It’s true that everyone is different; not everyone is comfortable jumping in a pool without checking the temperature of the water first, and that’s okay.
But to me — life is so much more exciting when you don’t always know what will happen next. We tend to watch movies we’ve never seen before because that element of surprise, of not knowing what the character will do or how the story will end, is what makes the movie-watching experience fun. Life has a way of singing the same song sometimes. Inviting someone new into your life brings a different kind of tune to your world.
I’ve shared with all my roommates stories, woes, meals, moments, laughs, inside jokes, recipes, and of course… the wonderful burden of bills. I’ve been challenged to think outside of myself, my ways, my habits, my preconceived notions; I’ve learned the art of managing conflict and picking your battles and laughing things off. There are so many memories and experiences I’ve gained through the adventure that is living with people you didn’t previously know.
From one roommate I got an epic, old family recipe for a Brunswick BBQ stew. This BBQ stew has become famous within my circle of friends. It’s become an annual winter tradition in my life. To think I would have never tasted the spicy, savory goodness of this fantastic BBQ stew if I hadn’t lived with that roommate! (It even inspired a short story I wrote.)
From another roommate I was introduced to graphic novels. I’m an avid reader — I love books and I love fiction — but graphic novels had never crossed my mind, or path, before I met this roommate. Because of her I read this spectacular graphic novel called Habibi by Craig Thompson, and was introduced to the striking, imaginative realm inhabited by authors like him. Also because of this roommate I tried buffalo burgers for the first time (her dad hunts buffaloes!) and let me tell you — they are amazing!
From another roommate I learned about the world of classical music. I had never really paid much attention to its rich and enduring beauty. This roommate drew that curtain for me and inspired me with her passion. She sat me down to a profound listening experience of “The Rite of Spring” by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. She gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation for the violin and the life of a musician, for she was a violinist. But mostly, she gave me the gift of true friendship, one that continued to grow and strengthen long after we were just two names on a lease.
From another roommate I learned many cooking tips and tricks and tasted delicious foods, for she was a chef. I discovered that kale, spinach, beets, crumbled cheese, and roasted walnuts, sprinkled with homemade vinaigrette dressing, equals the best-homemade-salad-ever.
And another roommate proved to be the best TV-show binge partner I’ve ever had.
I know there are a lot of roommate horror stories out there. I have friends who have lived the dark side of the roommate experience (most of them had lived with friends, though). And I too have had some not-so-brag-worthy roommate bumps, but they do make for some pretty funny stories. Overall, I must say I’ve been fortunate. You just honestly have to know what you want in a roommate (as well as know what kind of roommate you are), what to ask in the roommate interview, and how to read a person’s energy. You don’t always have to make friends with your roommates, that’s not the point or end-goal. But… when you do gain a friend by way of living with someone you didn’t previously know… well, that’s a pretty cool twist in the script.
I realize I’m in a stage of life where I’m probably better able to appreciate the living-with-roommates lifestyle. Perhaps my feelings about this might change over the next few years. Perhaps one day I’ll tell my dog Pepper to get a job so she and I can just be roommates (and so she can pay her own vet bills). But for now, I’m enjoying this adventure. This time in my life. To me it’s been a great series of memories, and memories make great stories — and to anyone who knows me, you know I love stories.
Roommates are a temporary relationship. But friends… good friends that I’ve made that I would have otherwise never met, are anything but temporary. In every stranger’s face is a potential friend. And I’m grateful I’ve been able to share and grow and live with strangers that have transformed into meaningful friends in my life. With these friends I’ll laugh and have “remember that time when we lived together” conversations… and with these friends I’ll smile when we tell inquiring, unsuspecting people: “Um… we actually met on Craigslist.”