When it comes to living arrangements, I’m one who enjoys solitude.  I’m not one to complain of loneliness, or feel a certain emptiness with lack to a companion.  Living on my own since 20 years old, over the years, developed a deep sense of independence and integrity. I’ve always held high regard to being your own backbone; to never setting too much dependence on anybody.  I enjoyed being responsible for my financial obligations and keeping a home reflective of me.

Unlike many of my friends who moved out into shared housing with roommates, I opted for the solo living arrangement, with no regrets.  I never got an apartment that was too expensive for my means.  My very first was a small, efficiency in the North Canton area of Ohio.  An older building, the exterior was deceiving.  The inside was mediocre; had horribly ugly wood paneling along one wall, the others, typical white drywall.  One window in the whole place, a small kitchen, a smaller bathroom, a living area and a small nook which I would later dub my ‘bedroom’, even though it wasn’t technically a room.  But, for $275 a month couldn’t pass it up. I began my first few years of independence in that tiny place.

While most people greeted the mailbox with apathetic grins, I happily walked down to mine, excited to see some bills in my name. It gave me a sense of importance, a challenge if you will, to get things done, to take care of it, on my own.  Always been a lover of art, and artistically inclined myself, I reflected that with wall decor, numerous framed art, sconces, or plaques.  My lonely window needed some extra zest, so I covered it with a sheer, white panel.  My inner-decorator was coming out, and I welcomed it.  It’s not only who inhabits a home, but also what you make of it, that is a shadow of you.

Over the years, definitely became stuck in my ways. There was a certain way my home had to operate, without trying to sound like a robot.  There was a certain order of things, or, a daily routine if you will.  I definitely kept a clean home, never one to be sloppy. This partly due to the fact I grew up with strict parents, who were on me to keep a clean room, put my dishes away, vacuum, dust, the whole nine yards. In my adolescent moodiness, I thought this was controlling and Nazi- like, but looking back, I appreciate so much of what they did, because now I realize the right way to keep a home.  They instilled a daily routine in me, so the ‘chores’ became habits. Most of my daily routine, putting dishes away, dusting, vacuuming, laundry, became such common knowledge to me, I naively assumed that everyone kept a home in a similar fashion…it wasn’t until I moved in with roommates that I got a rude awakening, a quite annoying one at that.

After about four years living on my own, I regretfully moved in with roommates. Due to financial reasons and the crumbling U.S. economy, I told myself, this is temporary, not permanent, and, on the optimistic side, who knows, I might like it. Never having roommates before, it was definitely something new. Me being already set in my ways at 26 years old, it was an adjustment.  I split a townhouse on the beach with four other people, two couples. One of them, clean like me, the other two, polar opposite.  Over the following months, I noticed little things. Cleanliness issues.  Like hair left in the shower; not a big deal, but the principle, when it comes to consideration, the person should clean it up, no? It became, where, every morning, I jumping in the shower, had to remove a ball of hair from the shower drain- ugh. Or dishes. I’m not one to let dishes accumulate in the sink like some wet, abstract display of disheveled china.  As a matter of habit, I always put my dishes away as soon as I dirtied them. My new roommates apparently didn’t share the same ideals. Sometimes dishes would sit in the sink all day long, and I wondered to myself, there’s 24 hours in a day, can they not take two minutes to put their dishes away? Sometimes, no one bothered to scrub the food off before placing in the dishwasher, they just expected the food to come off, after it’s already been sitting on there for hours. The stupidity was unbelievable! Or, crumbs on the counter.  My first thought was: this brings bugs, bugs are not good.  But, for some reason, the roommates just didn’t think about that.  Or, the one would complain about her laundry task, always having so much to do. But she only did it once a week. I thought, well if you keep up with it during the week, then it’s not so much.  There were times where I would clean up other people’s messes, but then thought to myself, Wait a minute, we’re all grown adults here, and I’m not your Mom. I’m not cleaning your mess. As hard as it was for me to not clean up someone’s leftover dishes or occasional crumbs on the counter, I often times retired to my room, my spotless, orderly mecca.  I sat outside on the deck a lot, gazing out to the ocean across the street, taking a mental siesta from the nuisance in the house. At times, the other girls in would pass by my room, commenting on how nice and orderly it was, and I coudn’t help but think, It’s called cleaning, you should try it sometime! I was beginning to feel as if I was the only one in the house containing any common sense.

It was hard.  Hard to get used to other people’s ways of doing things. Hard to bite my tongue at times.  Hard to not sweat the small stuff; but was it small stuff? In my mind, small stuff grew into bigger stuff, and if not corrected, created a mountain of ignorance. I couldn’t live in a house with people lacking that much common sense. I found myself mentally screaming at them, asking, “Are you that dumb, are you that lazy?” It’s not that I couldn’t live with roommates, it’s that I couldn’t live with sloppy, lazy roommates.  I had a big problem with that. And while there were more important things in life to be worried about, I found myself becoming more and more resentful.  It was like each person cultivated their own surnames with regard to how they kept their living space. I created nicknames for them.  “Mr. and Mrs. Slob”, and “Mr. and Mrs. Master & Servant”. These names reflected the daily goings-on between these two couples. “Mr and Mrs. Master & Servant” was aptly named because, there was no equality in that relationship. The girl did everything: cleaning, cooking, laundry. I don’t think I ever saw him do one load of laundry. They were a truly sedentary couple, spending hours in front of the television, fulfilling that true ‘American’ stereotype. It was really depressing to see, but then again, one had to wonder, what was going on in her head as well, with regard to compromise and shared responsibilities of a household.  And “Mr. and Mrs. Slob” was right on point, I’d never seen people so lazy they couldn’t take dishes down to the sink, they would instead let them sit in their room for days. And forget about vacuuming,  I don’t think I ever heard that run in the whole time I lived there. I said to myself, It’s truly amazing how some people live…

In the end, I only stayed there for seven months of my life. In those seven months, I definitely learned a lot about myself, about others. About what I can take, and what I absolutely cannot stand.  It was a big, fat learning experience. I walked away from it, whispering just that, “It was a learning experience, it was a learning experience…” But definitely one I will not repeat.  Such is life… learning, discovering and coming into one’s own.