Ode To My Roommate
The stories told are horrifying. The lessons learned are as follows: you can’t room with a potluck drawn x-factor, nor can you room with your closest friend. A random person can be who knows how crazy; your best friend can be worse. Far reaching friendships are torn apart in a matter of weeks. The friend you once respected is too lethargic to take her turn with the garbage. Dinner rotations cease to rotate and you are left with every dirty dish and new recipe. You find that your best friend is a hoarder of sweets and your relationship quickly turns sour.
These are the stories I was told about life with a roommate. Naturally, when I applied for housing at YC, I applied for potluck. I have the goal of being able to relate with most everyone I meet and this was the perfect way to practice. I got what I had hoped for: a roommate with a very different set of personality traits than mine who I was able to learn from and learn to understand.
A year later, and a year into Intro Biology Lab, my lab partner asked me to be his roommate. We had together bursted cancer cells to see the human genome laid out before our eyes, unravelled foot after foot of the intestines of a fetal pig to learn the ways of the body, absorbed the world of biology with our ever curious minds. To say yes to his request would mean to violate the second admonition for choosing a roommate: your lab partner is your best friend, if he could deign to accept such an epithet. Naturally, I said yes. This is of the most beloved yeses to have left my mouth.
People are surprised when I tell them that I believe that life with my roommate prepares me for marriage. I believe this comes from the fractured construct that contrasts a friendship from a relationship. I see my relationships rather in their fluidity, with their variability measured by the level of their intimacy.
This is what being a roommate entails: you are the first to see him wake up, the last to see him before he sleeps; you are the one waiting at home, ready to hear of all of the ups and downs in his streams of consciousness; he is the first to hear the poem you just crafted, the first audience to your new song; he gets the most genuine view of you in all of your struggles, and together you grapple to be men of integrity.
All of this makes me elated. I have successfully brought my close friend even more deeply into my life and I let him do the same with me. Though there is one egregious lack in our relationship and it is well worth exploring: we don’t fight. When I attempt to explain this, I realize that it is far more simple a task than it may seem. The unspoken premises of our relationship simply don’t allow for fighting. We care about each other enough to express that we do, and we communicate our feelings with careful diction. Fighting doesn’t happen not because we are so practiced in tempering ourselves, but because we are thoughtful enough to preempt a need for tempering. This leaves superlative grounds for a flourishing relationship.
The next time you see your roommate, look at that face and realize how fortunate you are that you can build such a connection with another person; then continue, with fervor, to build that connection. Write a letter expressing your gratitude for having this person in your life; surprise them with that beloved snack that would be so appreciated after a long day; go out into the city and have an adventure together; renew your sense of thanks in having someone to share your world with. You will not have the opportunity to connect with very many people this intimately. Do not quash this one in all of its potential.
(Special thanks to a friend, who helped me to cement these thoughts.)