Last summer, my roommate walked in on me drinking vodka by myself at 8 p.m., listening to the Backstreet Boys. It was humiliating for .0001 seconds before I realized I didn’t care. She laughed with a half-quizzical and half-amused expression and said, “What are you doing?” I pounded a shot and responded, choking on the merciless burn of alcohol in my throat, “Having a party!” And I was.
During the summer, I get to start fresh. I’m subletting an apartment I’ve never lived in before and will never live in again with three people who have little to no prior opinion of me. There’s a freedom in anonymity. I get to be whomever I want, free from the restraints of the school year, and do whatever I want without fear of judgement.
During the school year, I live in a sorority house with about 70 other girls. We share bedrooms, bathrooms, living areas, studying areas, meals — everything. And while I love these girls and I appreciate the convenience of living with all my best friends 15 minutes away from school, it can be overwhelming at times. People want to go out four nights a week, which I’m in favor of — just not every week — and someone somewhere is always blasting Rihanna (I’m looking at you, KA). I always feel like I have to greet every person I see in the house, which is remarkably overstimulating and exhausting. So when I searched for housing this summer, I strayed away from the frat house experience and asked around for an apartment with unknown roommates.
It’s not that I don’t feel comfortable to be myself in the sorority house, but that I’m a multi-faceted, complex person, and it isn’t always easy to be myself when I share every single room in my house with other people.
This summer, I’m working full time at a restaurant and at The Daily Californian, so my days are long and I’m constantly working. What I really need is a quiet, calm environment where I’m not liable to get too distracted by spontaneous trips or day drinking. So I chose to live with people I don’t really know.
During the school year in the sorority house, I have a very particular identity that can’t be separated from the sisterhood. The women there know me in relation to the house — our friendships were built there and relationships strengthened there. When I meet people in my classes, it’s difficult to remove the friendship from the classroom environment. I’ll always know them in relation to our Economics 1 discussion section.
With only three or four people in the apartment, all with full-time jobs, I’m guaranteed to have the alone time and space to bump some Hilary Duff jams while making a pie without bothering anyone studying or napping. The only place in the sorority house where one can truly be alone is the downstairs bathroom, where I can occasionally be found for 15-20 minutes at a time just chillin’ on my phone.
I can be spontaneous and silly in the privacy of my own home. And if my flatmates do walk through the door, I don’t even care because I barely know them. They’re getting to know me in my natural, unfettered state.
Being alone and having the freedom to act however you want is so important for individual growth. If you’re constantly surrounded by other people it’s impossible to get to know yourself and get comfortable with the person you’re becoming. The college years are widely considered to be the ideal time for “finding yourself” because you have just enough responsibilities and pressure to grow into an adult-esque human, but enough free time and youth to make crazy mistakes. So we’re all just trying to figure out what kind of adult we’re going to be.
How can you do that if you never have the time to listen to and process your own thoughts or feelings?
That’s what living with unknown roommates brings. You get to meet new people and potentially make new friends without the pressure to hang out and become close. If you do get along, they’ll get to know the real you — the you in a Superman pose on a mountaintop with the wind whipping through your hair as you stand proud and liberated from the stress and hell of a Berkeley school year.
You’ll have time to begin to understand your own mind and what you really want out of your time in college and beyond. You’ll have the opportunity to experiment with your free time — are you a chef? Perhaps a musician? You can bake a stone fruit crumble in your underwear at midnight, then eat three servings drowned in pure cream without fear of derision. You might regret the tummyache, but you won’t regret the quiet, alone time.
Life is too short to spend even one minute doing something you don’t want to do. Living with people you don’t know gives you the time and freedom to figure out exactly what it is you love to do and whom you’d love to be.