What I've learned after having eight roommates in two years
Whether due to a change in marital status, a new job location, or a simple case of irreconcilable differences, changing roommates has become a staple of my life during my first two years in Los Angeles. After the dust has settled and each roommate has come and gone, I am left standing with lessons learned, an ample amount of room to grow, and an untarnished, much-needed sense of humor.
To give you a little more context, I moved from Oklahoma to California two years ago to pursue my journalism career.
As I hunted to secure a job and an apartment, I reached out to a few friends I knew in Los Angeles. A few months later, one of them connected me with a girl she loosely knew through her church. This girl found two other young women who were looking for an apartment, and the rest was history. We moved in, signed the dotted line, and made deposits within days.
While being in your mid-twenties and living with three other women is not ideal, it is often the name of the game in the City of Angels. The housing market in big cities like L.A. isn’t cheap. It takes time, effort, connections, and a little bit of luck to find a good spot you can afford. When I first moved here, I had that hunger. I was willing to do whatever was necessary in order to make it on my own.
This attitude would come in handy in the months and years ahead, as a number of outlandish and absurd roommate situations were waiting for me.
Sometimes, I tell roommate stories to my friends just for a good, cathartic laugh. I swear, if I had a stand-up show, those stories would be my entire act. I have names for each of my roommates to help me keep the stories in order (and to add a little bit of comedic flair, if I do say so myself.)
There was the roommate who took a job cross-country; the unhygienic, emotionally unstable roommate who we had to ask to leave; the two roommates who got married. There was the prideful roommate who never paid bills on time and — no matter if she was right or wrong — always had to have things her way. There was the sheepishly meek and socially awkward roommate. There were the BFF roommates who couldn’t afford toilet paper, yet somehow managed to buy alcohol. There was the roommate who had a dog she let pee in the apartment and only walked about once a day. (This is just the quick synopsis — I could go on.)
Needless to say, my search for a solid, stable roommate has been an uphill battle. There have been moments of stress, frustration, tears, and laughter. Each person who has helped me pay a fourth of the rent has probably given me a gray hair or two, but they also brought their own unique perspectives and stories. Experiencing how our personalities interacted — both different and similar — brought me learning opportunities.
Prior to moving to L.A., I was a passive aggressive ambivert who only spoke up when I had to.
Living with so many different people in such a short period of time has taught me how to set boundaries, to speak up for myself, to care less about being liked and getting along with everyone all the time (an impossible feat).
You can say something when someone makes an entire meal with your food (which has happened to me), but maybe let it go when a roommate tells white lies that don’t affect you. Speak up when someone keeps parking behind you and making you late for work. Speak up when someone isn’t paying bills on time. Let it go when a roommate swears she bought an inexpensive kitchen item that you know is actually yours.
I have learned that, sometimes, it is worth standing your ground and speaking up at the cost of being disliked. I should never choose to go unheard for fear of not being everyone’s friend. Yet, I must remember that every battle isn’t worth going to war over. I ought to choose carefully.
My revolving door of L.A. roommates has taught me to show people grace.
That is perhaps the most transformative lesson. I can speak up and set boundaries with people, and then choose to let it go. I understand the importance of forgiving often and quickly. Grudges will eat you up inside; you will walk around cold and bitter. Hold grudges, and you will live in an apartment with closed bedroom doors, little conversation, and no laughter — which is no place to call home.
I have reflected on my own behavior, and the ways in which I can improve. I am definitely not perfect. (It wouldn’t be fair to out my former roommates without sharing some of my flaws too.)
I struggle with perfectionism. I stifle my emotions and won’t communicate. I have passive aggressive tendencies.
Living with so many different people has shown me that everyone — myself included — always has room to grow.
My housing experiences in Los Angeles have not been ideal — but with laughter, forgiveness, grace, communication, and a good drink from time to time, I have learned to cope with crazy and find the humor in it all.