I’m on the phone with my 90-year-old grandmother who lives in an assisted living home. We’re discussing the pandemic and things like social distancing when she says something about how fortunate she feels to have her own apartment. She makes reference to nursing homes where people have roommates and my head fills with an image of octogenarians climbing into bunk beds.
I laugh to myself and think about when my college roommate and I bunked our beds and at 18, I finally got to live a weird childhood dream of sleeping on the top bunk. And suddenly I realize how grateful I am that I slept in bunk beds.
I’m glad that when I was 18, I was placed with a random roommate in a room barely big enough for two beds and two desks. I’m glad I had shower shoes and a communal bathroom shared with the 30 other girls on my hall. I’m glad I lived somewhere where 30 extra seconds on a microwave bag of popcorn could mean a fire drill at 1:00 AM during Finals Week… somewhere where hanging a white board on the door meant always coming home to new messages from friends… somewhere where lifelong memories are formed. And at the same time. I’m glad that’s not my situation now.
I’m glad that when I was 21, I moved to New York City and lived in an apartment with more mice than people. (And I was the 8th human to move in.) I’m glad I later moved to an apartment with four men I had never met before… glad they became some of my first and strongest friends in the city. I’m glad I slept—for an entire month—behind a sofa and a curtain in that same apartment, on an air mattress that would deflate overnight just so we could stay together a little longer… just so we could move together when the lease ended. And at the same time. I’m glad that’s not my situation now.
I’m glad that when I was 25, I switched rooms in my 5 bedroom apartment from a normal sized room to “the closet room” that fit a twin sized bed and a tiny nightstand only. I’m glad for the safety and security I felt in that small space and the way my cousin and friend would come into my room at night to talk (instead of the more reasonable option of hanging out in their rooms or the family room). I’m glad I had a space that felt like home and glad that I learned a bit about how minimally I could live. And at the same time. I’m glad that’s not my situation now.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the seasons of our lives. How fortunate we are to experience each of them when we do. I choose to believe that I am right on time.
In between apartments once, I met up with a group of similarly-aged peers and was set to rent a room from one of them over the summer. The apartment was lovely and we all hit it off. I was thrilled. Then, at the last second, there was an issue with the legality of the sublease and everything fell through. I was super worried about where I was going to move next and bummed that I wouldn’t have a summer of friendship with these folks.
Instead, I moved into the aforementioned apartment with the four men I’d never met before. I channeled my inner Zooey Deschanel and made mental notes of which characters my new roommates were to my New Girl Jess. That apartment and those friendships changed my life. And while I firmly believe that I might say the same thing had I stayed in the original apartment, the fact is, I didn’t. I ended up with them. Ended up with late night conversations on the roof and wall sit competitions in the family room, with rugby games and gourmet meals. Ended up right where I needed to be.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I’ve ended up in certain places—geographically, professionally, interpersonally. And at the end of the day, no matter how beautiful or damning each situation was, I wholeheartedly believe that it brought me to where I need to be… even if it’s something I won’t recognize for a few more years.
So bring me the mess. Give me the chaos. Share with me the memories of blowing out a Yankee candle on a birthday and remind me how it felt to come home to each other. Thank you for the seasons of questions and of answers. Of bunk beds and random roommates and bug spray and love. I’m glad I’ve had you.