Look, we’ve all been here before. It’s late. I’ve spent all night grinding — maybe it was in the library, maybe it was on someone else — and now I’ve stumbled home. I’m exhausted. All I want to do is steal a warm shower, grab a late dinner (or early breakfast) and curl up in my quiet, clean bed because it’s been a f—ing day.
But that’s not an option.
The bathroom is disgusting, the toilet paper is nowhere to be found and I can forget about cleaning myself because the shower hasn’t been cleaned in days. I went grocery shopping by myself earlier, but someone’s definitely been drinking my juice without permission. The dishes are dirty, but I can’t even think about that because one of my roommates is singing Travis Scott at the top of their lungs. And no matter how inebriated I am, someone else is that much further gone and requires immediate attention.
All right, fair enough; I’ve never had a night exactly like this. Such emotional nadirs remain confined to my nightmares and hyperbolic complaints, but anyone who’s had a roommate has inevitably felt a mix of these frustrations. For your sake, I pray they have not all come at once.
But here’s the thing: I love my roommates. Some of them can’t do dishes, some of them still think they can sing, one treats the living room like a walk-in closet and I’m never at home enough to support them, but, in the end, there’s no one we’d rather live with.
Because we’ve found an easy formula for success. A childishly simple way to get along and maintain the peace: Roast anyone and everyone for their error and then laugh it all off.
That’s right — nonstop heat and infinite forgiveness.
No matter who did what where, the answer to the problem is to lob it back at the person who created it. Water has been spilled all over the floor? Blow up the group chat. I left my stuff in the living room? I’ll never hear the end of it. We take the passive out of passive-aggressive. Failing to maintain the apartment can only result in a rain of fire and brimstone. It’s a scorched-earth policy that forces those responsible to be responsible or face the merciless roasts of their peers.
That all sounds pretty toxic. I mean, the last thing I want is to be admonished by my roommate and the second-to-last thing I want is to admonish my roommate. So, as with anything, we find a balance in the force.
If I screw up, I’ll catch hell, but by the end of it, I’ll be laughing along with everyone else as I go to clean up whatever mess I made. If it’s not funny, if you can’t make everyone laugh, none of it works. Our burns are warm, but our hearts are warmer.
Compassion can’t stop there. If I’m going to turn up the heat when someone makes a mess, I have to turn up the love when they clean it up. My roommate takes out the trash? A shower of compliments. You share some of your food? We’re best friends for life. Someone cleans the living room? They’re basically a messiah.
Beyond that simple give and take, though, there has to be room for compromise. It’s never perfect and it never will be. Flaming my roommate may not always be the move; sometimes I should ask nicely, but if I’m not willing to argue with someone, I have to do it myself. At the end of the day, we all live differently. We might not share the same vision of a clean bathroom. I might think the clean dishes belong somewhere else.
So we pick up each other’s slack. We help each other out when we need it and we try to be understanding. We’re all people who make mistakes, and sometimes, we need help fixing those mistakes. If the dishes pile up I’ll begrudgingly wash them because I know that one day, I’ll come home and those dishes will be washed or the kitchen will be cleaned or the apartment will have been redecorated. I help my boys out because I know that later, they’ll have my back, too.
We’re in college for four years and that time will sprint by us before we stop and ask what happened. We get to live with these people and enjoy this life for the barest of breaths — we might as well try to enjoy that time. So when Andrew sings at the top of his lungs, I’ll hum along. If Dhangur and I cook, I spot him with the dishes. When Daniel leaves his stuff all over the living room, we help him clean up. If Mateo and Anthony decide to party at midnight on a weekday, we all shrug and join in. And when I forget to turn off the stove, they all laugh at me, roast me like a Costco chicken and turn it off.
Is it perfect? No, but nothing is. We’re human, we get angry and we get upset, but at the end of the day we find time to laugh it off. Times will be bad. When we’re scared or stressed, it’s easy to let our frustration escape, but the world has seen enough of that to last too many lifetimes. We all live in the same places and use the same spaces. There’s no reason not to love the people we spend time with, and there’s no reason not to laugh in those moments we share.
Jasper Kenzo Sundeen is the sports editor. Contact Jasper at [email protected].