So it’s sometime in January. You’re just getting back from a fabulous winter break filled with friends, hot cocoa and festive baked goods to boot. You open the door to your dorm room, but wait! Who is this strange, unknown person sitting in your common room, and why does he think he can put his feet on the coffee table? OH $#%&. You totally forgot you were getting a new roommate this semester. What do you do? This is where that primal area of your reptilian brain kicks in, the ole’ ‘Fight or Flight’ routine. Do you panic, drop out of school and move back home? Do you just stand in silence and cry to yourself until your roommate disappears? Or are you a power move kind of person and begin wildly thrashing about the place, throwing food everywhere and punching through the dry wall to assert dominance? Well, if any of those options are your go-to opening moves, then I say:
A) Go for it. The number one rule of life is to always be yourself, no matter the situation. And
B) Change yourself. See a specialist or something. I mean c’mon man…who punches through walls and wastes food like that?
In all seriousness, getting a new roommate can be a stressful, tricky situation. But why? Why would getting a new roomie in the middle of the year be any different than say, meeting your roommate on your first day of freshman year? Well first of all, you’ve already been living in this room for months, maybe longer. You like the ebb and flow of your day to day, and anything that disrupts that flow is bad news. Humans crave some semblance of stability so we tend to avoid situations (such as this) where our boat is rocked, so to speak.
Secondly, you haven’t picked to live with this person. The housing department at your school just decided “Hey. This kid is homeless and needs somewhere to stay this semester. Oh look, there’s an opening in Nate’s room. Just throw him in there.” Talk about rude. These people don’t even know you, or the person they’re selecting to live with you for the next 4 months. As a writer for TP I’m all about audacity, but this is just too much. After freshman year most people pick their roommates to avoid that awkwardness and tension associated with living with people they don’t know. Getting new roommates brings you back to those anxiety ridden days of freshman year when you had no idea if your roommate was going to be awesome or if you were going to be stuck with the floor’s local smelly kid.
In addition, if you’re getting a new roommate mid-way through the year, it probably means that someone moved out. You probably had a good thing going with the person who just left and you feel that nobody could ever fill the hole that beloved old roommate left in your heart. Or maybe the opposite happened. Maybe your old roommate moved out because you hated each other. You were constantly at each other’s throats, and as a result one of you decided to call it quits and move on. This terrible experience may have scarred you, making you afraid to ever love again. I’m here to tell you: Don’t fear the love. Embrace it. Be it. Love the love.
So we’ve talked a bit about why getting a new roommate in the middle of the year can be a potentially problematic and stressful situation. Let’s now talk about what steps we take to actually deal with the issue at hand. First of all, as was mentioned above: just be yourself. Unless nobody likes you, then you should ignore this step. People appreciate it when other people show their true colors and aren’t always trying to tiptoe around, making sure they’re changing themselves to cater to the tastes of the people around them. We refer to those people as Shapeshifters and Shapeshifters have, since the days of old, been held in low esteem and are generally frowned upon. Unless you’re that guy from Season 2 of Game of Thrones who can change his face at will. That guy is freakin’ awesome and if you can do that then just keep on keepin’ on. The next thing you need to do in order to get a handle on the situation is to try and place yourself in their shoes.
This can be tricky since for all you know you could be a size 9 but your new roommate could wear 13’s. No seriously, think of your room as a zoo, which, in all honesty, probably isn’t that far off based on the smell and filth. So you and your roommates from last semester have been living in this zoo for months now. You know the lay of the land and you’ve all assimilated into each other’s daily lives. But then all of a sudden this new guy is thrust into your cozy little habitat like that statue’s sword into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stomach in the final scene of End of Days. Intense.
Irrelevant movie references aside, it’s uncomfortable for someone to just move into a place where other people have already been living. Be conscious of this and cut the person some slack if they bring little quirks along with them that you aren’t used to. They’re just trying to acclimate to their new surroundings and the discomfort you feel about not knowing them is nothing compared to what they feel after being inserted into your life with no say in the matter.
Above all else, you should actually take some time to sit down with your new roommate and actually get to know them. Watch some TV with them, grab lunch, etc. At the end of the day, he or she is a student at the same school as you so you have at least one thing in common. Chat them up, learn their story, see what makes them tick. You never know what you might find out. I recently got two new roommates and was hesitant to let them into my life at first. But after talking to them I learned that one spent his entire first semester in Australia and has the coolest abroad stories to tell and the other happens to have played all of the same video games I loved as a kid, listens to the kind of music I like and is just an all-around bro.
With all of this in mind, you can stay as cool as a menthol-soaked cucumber when your new roommate arrives. No tears. No panic. No structural damage. Just the sweet, sweet serenity of a happy household.