Monday, November 22, 2010

Not About China

This is something I'm thinking of submitting into a little competition thing. Let me know what you think. BE CRITICAL!

Roommating is a tricky business. When you live with a person, you learn a great deal about them in a short amount of time. Sometimes roommates are soul mates, and problems are few and insignificant. Sometimes a roommate can turn into your worst nightmare. To further complicate the situation, you can never tell which it will be, regardless of whether your new roommate is your best friend or a complete stranger. And then to exacerbate the situation, you are often locked into a contract which legally binds you to this person for a certain extended period of time. Since I moved out of my parents' houses a little over 3 years ago, I have had a number of different roommates and experienced the gamut of situations. I plan to continue to live with roommates for a few years still, even though I know people who think it is time to strike out on my own. I think these people are crazy. Why would I want to live alone, isolated from difficult interactions with the world? I would go mad from boredom, this is a fact. I appreciate my alone time, but living alone just seems like a sentence of perpetual boredom. I like people, even if it takes some work to get along with them. That's what the world is, right? Finding creative ways to get along with people that are difficult to get along with? Trying to isolate yourself from them won't help, instead I strive to develop effective coping strategies.

One of the biggest issues between roommates is the issue of cleanliness. I have been on both sides of this coin, depending on if there are any slobs bigger than myself or not. First year university is probably an interesting experience for many people. At my campus, in my house, four complete strangers moved in on the same day. Some houses had six people. Naturally, for any reasonable group of people, there is a grace period of a month or two. In this time, we all let things slide that may irritate us in the name of making friends. Letting things slide gradually becomes bottling things up, and eventually something hits our trigger. I think first year university is extra difficult because it is everybody's first time living away from their home. This is significant, because in your parent's home, the rules are de facto and non-negotiable, and have often been in effect since before you can remember. The problem lies in every home having different rules, and every individual living in my house of four having different ideas about what was common sense and what was simply illogical. In this situation, I was not the biggest slob, and found myself sided with my roommates who couldn't stand the mess. In hindsight, I have some regrets about the way we treated this girl because I worry we may have ganged up on her and been meaner than necessary. My only excuse that I was young, inexperienced and still on my 'big-fish in a small pond' high (this has since subsided). This experience did help me understand that we all have different ideas of what an acceptable level of cleanliness is, and like all things, is more a case of difference than one being better than the other. Although I may just think this because I am also capable of becoming the slob in this situation.

I have never claimed to be a neat-freak. I readily admit to being a bit of a slob, but I like to think I keep it contained. I'm not so much dirty as I am messy, and it's important that people understand the difference. I bathe regularly, and when I clean I SCRUB. I don't like dirt. I get rid of it. But, I have a tendency to leave my stuff lying around. I can't get it out of my head that putting things away is a waste of time because you're just going to use it again tomorrow. Leaving things lying around SAVES TIME. Okay, also, I am lazy. But nobody has been able to convince me that being a neat person should be higher on my priority list, so it remains thus. I am aware that when sharing a space with someone, it is considerate to keep your junk clear of the common areas like living room, kitchen and bathroom, and I try to comply with this policy. One problem I seem to frequently encounter is the issue of dirty dishes. I DO my dishes, just not as frequently as some people would like. Dirty dishes almost feels like a sensitive topic to me, that's how serious it can become between roommates Maybe I was spoiled by the dishwasher when I was growing up, but I just can't motivate myself do do dishes unless it's pertinent. This may disgust some people, but this generally means that I have run out of dishes or I can no longer see the counter because it's covered in dirty ones. When two people with this attitude get together, things can turn ugly, and I mean literally ugly, not figuratively ugly. We were slobs, but we knew it, and we tried to clean before having company over. And it was wonderful. I'm sure there were fights between us but I honesty can't remember a single one of them. This situation is rare. What is far more common is someone like me living with someone who doesn't like to see dirty dishes all over the counter every morning. Due to my stubborn nature (I think), it has taken me a somewhat long time to figure out that the OTHER person is the normal person in this situation and not myself. I have managed, in my current living situation, to wash the dishes almost everyday. It is difficult to tell if this is because I have matured in the past couple of years or if the pressure and uncertainty of living in a foreign country where I don't speak the language has reduced me to a spineless yes-(wo)man who will do anything for an English speaking friend from a familiar culture. I'll decide on that later. Either way, I have realized that in order to be a good roommate, I need to try to be less of a slob, particularly in common areas. My room is my business, and if anyone tries to force me to clean it that's a whole different story of territoriality and individuality that would make me sound like an insane person. The point is, all of my roommates have demanded different levels of cleanliness, and ultimately, it is an issue that requires compromise from both individuals, but the slob in the situation can make it easier by acknowledging that it is more difficult for the clean person to give up being clean than it is for the slob to give up being a slob. And this is coming from a fellow slob. It's just easier...just do it.

I'll explain what it's for later.

In other news, I am moving this weekend. Much closer to school and work (cough) and the bars (cough). It has some furniture, but lacks a fridge, oven and washing machine, so I might finally earn some of that IDS street cred that my friends in Africa have been harassing me about. Or I might just go buy them. The next couple of weeks will decide.

Missing everybody!

1 comment:

  1. AWEEEE Mary I miss you!! yes you can be slob-ish at times but you really do mean well! and you do a really good job of keeping common areas clean of your stuff!! Your room is your own business and the fact that your doing your dishes everyday, I can;t see why you'd have any problems... I hope you will like your new place!! and English speaking, culturally similar friends in China are clearly over- rated hmmmp. Don't go getting too much street cred now...
    Lauren :D