I have always been an extrovert. I feel more energetic around other people. I have better ideas when I am with others. I am a verbal processor.  I like being around people.  But I am a terrible roommate.

In the traditional sense, I think I’m a great roommate – I’m clean, I’m neat, I can cook, I pay bills on time. Everything always starts out great. We start out as friends and spend time together hanging out in “our place.” Either we agree on decorating choices, or we easily come to a compromise in the common areas. We bend over backwards for one another (“You can use the washer first. I’ll do laundry later.” “No, it’s fine. You go and I’ll do mine tomorrow.” “Are you sure?” “Yeah, absolutely.” “Because I can always do mine later tonight…” “No, really! Go ahead.”). We don’t mind washing that extra bowl in the sink from the other person, because we know that they’d wash ours if the situation was reversed. And there’s always the obligatory, “Let me check with my roommate,” before inviting a non-mutual friend over.

Of course, this whole “honeymoon” stage ends soon enough and, inevitably, the uber-politeness stops. Many a time I have found myself angrily washing pots and pans from days ago that I didn’t use, and absolutely seething when I come home to a washer full of someone else’s wet clothes impeding my plan to do laundry. At one time, I had a roommate who suddenly revealed herself as a total slob after just a few short weeks. If she dropped something on the floor by accident, it would most likely live there until I picked it up. I once left a spoon she had dropped on the floor, stubbornly refusing to pick it up on principle. I finally gave up after 3 weeks.

And this is where the problem lies. Instead of bringing these issues up, I let them quietly fester, until they are no longer that quiet. Rather than face a possible (though avoidable, if handled with love and grace) conflict, I internalize everything and let resentment build. I completely forget that I have annoying habits, too. I become uncommunicative, unfriendly, and unlikable.  Why don’t I just address these issues?  Because deep down I know they are petty.  For the most part, these roommates of mine began as friends.  They were people I hung out with regularly, confided in, trusted.  Did my friend’s inability to use a vacuum affect her ability to make me laugh? No.  Just because she regularly left her things on the kitchen table, did that make her any less loyal or faithful?  Of course not.   No one’s personality was changed by these things except mine.  I was the one who became a bad friend.  And I knew that’s why I could never, ever bring it up.

Last spring, I went back to my hometown (near Chicago) for 5 months. I stayed with a family that I have known for about 10 years and whom I consider very good friends. Naturally, I was worried about how that would go. I knew what was on the line if I couldn’t get it together. Maybe it was because I was living as a guest in a house that belonged to somebody else.  Maybe I have grown up a bit (I hope this is true). Probably it has something to do with all the praying I did in the months leading up to the move. Whatever the reason, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. We cooked and ate together almost every night. We had TV shows that we would only watch when everyone was together. In fact, many times I chose to stay home with them rather than go out with groups of other friends. Speaking objectively, the same issues were probably still there. It’s just that I didn’t even notice them anymore.

I returned to Osaka last September, and I was able to rent an apartment by myself. It’s the first time I’ve lived alone in almost 10 years. I am once again enjoying having all the space to myself and making everything just the way I want it. But you know, it’s a little lonely.

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