In the Class of 2020's Last Lecture, one of Cody Keenan’s pearls of wisdom was that you should live with roommates as long as you can after college. This struck me as a pretty hot take, because I’ve fantasized about reveling in the quiet of my own minimally furnished studio apartment pretty much constantly since I was a freshman living in Allison Hall.
But as virtual commencement quickly approached and I began to reflect on Cody’s advice more, I realized that some of the biggest life lessons I’d learned had come from the various homes I inhabited during my time at Northwestern. People say that college is a home away from home. I don’t know if I always agree with that, but here are the top lessons I learned from my various roommates and Northwestern “homes” over the years.
1. Home is not always where the shower is.
My junior year apartment was defined by two things: Its general run-down appearance and its single bathroom. I shared this apartment with five other roommates, and I cannot tell you the number of times I bounded confidently to the bathroom seconds before leaving to go somewhere, only to have my hopes dashed by a closed door and the heartbreaking sound of someone else using the shower.
However, humans are resilient – especially humans living with roommates – so I quickly began to invent ways to get around these obstacles. I got comfortable going in to pee while someone else was showering. I chewed gum on my way to class when I couldn’t brush my teeth before running out the door. I might not have gotten to shower whenever I wanted, but I also had the perks of living with five friends. I always had someone to talk to or hang out with around the apartment, and the house was always buzzing with people and friends and music. I may not have always been clean while I lived in that apartment, but I was never bored or lonely.
2. You can make anywhere feel like home with sheer willpower.
My sophomore year spring, I called a living room in Park Evanston home. While spacious, this apartment did not afford me the luxury of privacy. The divider that created my bedroom wall was flimsy and see-through, and my random roommates were prone to trying to talk to me through it, even when I had it closed. About once a week, said divider would fall over at an inopportune moment, causing massive embarrassment and discomfort for all involved.
That being said, this living situation ended up being the one I miss most. My bedroom, while not enclosed, made a surprisingly nice place to host a pregame or have a wine night with friends. My random roommates made for some funny (or horrifying, depending on your outlook) stories, and never again did I find another college apartment with both a garbage disposal and a dishwasher. I also learned that bedrooms are merely a state of mind, and after spending 10 weeks sleeping basically on the floor, I can now feel comfortable sleeping in almost any physical situation.
3. Home is a feeling, not a place ... and that place is not Sargent.
I am sorry to report this one, but it’s true: Living in Sargent is as bad as they say, especially if 1) your bike gets stolen at the beginning of the year and you have to trek to all of your south campus classes on foot, and/or 2) you have a roommate who Literally Never leaves the room.
4. Sometimes the best thing to do is leave home.
At the end of my junior winter, I was burned out and emotionally exhausted, not to mention ill with both mono and strep at the same time. It was in this physical state that I prepared to spend the next six months in Washington, D.C. – first that spring for my JR, then that summer for another internship. As I packed up my belongings and carried them out to my car in the dead of an Evanston winter, I (dramatically) dreamed of moving to D.C. and never returning to campus.
Fast forward six months later, and I did return to Evanston (thankfully, by then, mono- and strep-free). I definitely came back with a little bit of senioritis after living in the “real world” for six months, but I also found that this time apart had made me better at surviving Northwestern. I worried less about taking a night off from homework to go to Whiskey Thief and get drinks with friends in the middle of the week. I kept my D.C. habit of cooking real meals for dinner instead of going out. After learning how to make friends in a completely new city, I found it easier to push myself out of my comfort zone in similar ways once I was back on campus. I also felt more confident about my ability to survive after college, since I’d just had a six-month trial run.
5. Home IS where the heart is.
Since this is an NBN senior column, I would be remiss not to mention the home I found within NBN on campus. I joined NBN as a first-quarter freshman, and by the time I became editor-in-chief my junior year, I was surrounded by a close circle of hard-working writers, editors, photographers and designers. My closest friends to this day are almost entirely people I met through NBN, and most of my important memories from college are associated with NBN in some way. A brief list of these: I saw my own byline for the first time through NBN, I got drunk for the first time at an NBN fundy, I got my first tattoo with people from NBN, and I learned how to be a leader through NBN. Although NBN isn’t a physical home, it was one of the most meaningful experiences I had at Northwestern, and I hope that it lives on for as long as possible.