I’ve been living out of my family home now for four years (doesn’t time fly…); whilst I spent my first year in university halls surrounded by a good 100+ other people, in my second year of university it came time to move in with friends. Since then, I’ve lived in three different flats, with a total of four different people. In my first year I lived with three friends from uni, the next year this got chopped in half to just two of us, then this year (my first year working full time), I moved in with a friend I had met on my internship. So, four years in, what have I learned about living with other people?
I have some friends that I love who I know I just could never live with. For example, some days I like to spend time just absolutely chilling by myself, with my door closed, not in the mood to interact much (and of course, some days I feel like chatting away), but some people may consider this antisocial, and not want to live with someone like me. I also do spend a good amount of time with my boyfriend – whilst I don’t neglect my friends by doing this – I’ve met many people that would be bothered by this. In fact I had a friend that let this ruin our whole friendship. The kind of person I am? I’m chilled out, I’m not confrontational and I go to bed late. If you match up with that? Well, we can live together in harmony.
Weirdly I found that in my first year of living out, I really neglected the friends that I lived with. Whilst the previous year we’d be organising brunches and meet ups, I found myself going days at a time without even chatting to my flatmates sometimes – and this was in uni (of course now that I work long hours, its a lot easier for this to happen). Maybe just because I lived with them, we all stopped thinking we had to put effort in. Whilst I did find it a lot more effortless in future years to just naturally keep in touch with whoever I lived with, this was always something I remained wary of keeping forward.
Living with other people is NOT easy. BUT – you also need to learn how to pick your battles. The thing is, when you’re living with your family, you don’t really need to be too sensitive. If I was to shout at my younger brother for making a mess (not that that ever happens), well, perhaps he’d be annoyed at me for a few hours but it really won’t affect our relationship over the long term. But with friends? That sh*t could tear people apart. You need to learn how to pick and choose your battles if you want to preserve your friendships – whilst you don’t want to be nagging for every little thing, you also don’t want to be too silent such that you end up being walked over (trust me I know, I’ve been there before).
Throughout university especially, you will need to get your parents (or general guardians) to support you. For example, your parents may have to chip in to rent if you run low on money (because you’re a poor student), your parents will have to act as your ‘guarantors’, etc. Don’t make the mistake of having to rely on other people’s parents – it’s obviously a lovely thing when someone’s parents are able to give you a hand, but you need to hedge your bets sometimes. Occasionally, friendships do fall apart, it’s just the way life goes, so do you really want someone to have that ability of hanging something over your head? I made the mistake of doing that once, and then started being approached by notions of “look, my mum’s your guarantor! So…” Let me tell you, that next year I slapped those guarantor papers onto my dad’s desk and said “never again”.
A question I get asked all the time is – “are you going to move in with your boyfriend?” I guess because my boyfriend and I have been together for quite a while now that people see the next most natural step as moving in together. But I can honestly say, personally for us, there is absolutely and truly no rush. I’m 22 years old! I have the rest of my life to do that. For now, I want to enjoy my younger years, living like a young person. And that is one of the great parts about living with your friends, it’s really something to do in the ‘now’, because one day we’re all going to be 30 years old, building families, and not really trying to live with our besties. So have a good time, make some good memories. There’ll be bumps in the road and drama for everyone, but overall it’s a great and unique experience.
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