Graphic by Dakota Cox.

Roommates and quarantine are an inconsistent mix

Relationships are put to the test in the face of a global pandemic

There are plenty of things to love and plenty of things to hate about college, and roommates are a textbook example of each.

Having lived with my mother then in a studio apartment while I was attending community college, it wasn’t until my first semester at HSU that I got to experience the wonderful highs and woeful lows of living with roommates.

My first experience with roommates lasted a grand total of five months. Spoiling a decade-long friendship, my roommate and his girlfriend removed their names from our lease behind my back. I was left with less than a month of break to find new roommates and, because I no longer qualified for my lease, a new apartment. Needless to say, the experience left a sour taste in my mouth.

By the grace of Ghandi I secured a new roommate and a much nicer apartment, much closer to campus. My new and current roommate is someone I’ve known for the majority of my life, however, the four years standing between us prevented us from ever becoming close friends before moving in together. In contrast to living with my original roommates, whom I’d previously developed much more intimate relationships with, this arrangement has been a significant growing process.

The difference between living with a close friend and a friendly acquaintance is night and day. When it comes to romantic relationships, commitments of this magnitude are almost never taken lightly, and for good reason: moving in with someone unfailingly leads to confrontation. It’s the little things that get in the way of getting along, like a sink that’s constantly full of dishes or the inevitable awkwardness of an imbalance of wealth – things you’d be more willing to forgive coming from a close friend. In time, however, as we grow to become a more constant presence in one another’s life, the dynamic of our relationship will likely either evolve into a strong bond or you will prove incompatible.

When COVID-19 made its presence felt in the United States last March, the way we interact as individuals in a society completely changed. As a result, countless relationships have been put to the test in entirely new and intensified ways. This, however, has not been the case for my roommate and I.

Following the abridged in-person instruction of the spring semester, my roommate opted out of returning to online classes in the fall. While I logged into my classroom each day from within the all-too-familiar walls of our apartment, my roommate split his time and his nights between working in Southern Humboldt and coaching baseball at College of the Redwoods. With my roommate gone more often than not and my family living hours away, I became the boy in the bubble.

In the months leading up to the pandemic, my roommate and I developed a genuine friendship, reaching beyond the surface level interactions of our past. It has only been in his significant absence, however, that I’ve come to truly appreciate his presence. Naturally, when your time with a person is limited, you become inclined to celebrate the occasions that you’re together. Rather than spending time dragging each other down, participating in more casual activities like watching movies and playing video games as we’d frequently done in the past, we’ve come to use much more of the time we have to lift each other up in our prospective pursuits.

Ten years from now, when I look back on the times I spent with my college roommates, it won’t be the cold showers I took because all the hot water was used up or the extra trips I took to the grocery store because my milk disappeared again that I’ll remember. Instead, I’ll fondly reminisce upon the final days before I felt the full weight of adulthood – when we created our own adventures and answered to no one.

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