I never had doubts about Florida State University fostering a new and improved life for me, but I had doubts about making new friends easily. I attended the same school from kindergarten through middle school, so as a kid, I never felt the need to consistently make new friends. When I left the comfort of my middle school friends and got to high school, I only spoke to a small number of my volleyball teammates.
My first high school lunch period, I remember frantically looking for someone I knew so I wouldn’t have to sit alone. Thankfully, one of my teammates graciously invited me to sit with her and some of her friends from middle school. I sat with them and listened to her outgoing friends loudly gossip about people I didn’t know or reminisce about middle school. I quietly ate my cookies and said nothing. A week later, still just listening to them, one of the girls asked me, “Why aren’t you like us? You’re like very quiet.” I shrugged, but thought because I’m just not.
I didn’t grow out of my introverted ways, either. I still can’t present in a college class without a shaky voice and sweaty palms, hence why I’m currently taking speech online instead of in person. So it was nothing new when I felt more afraid of meeting my roomies than I was of Cruella Deville coming into my house and skinning my cats when I was younger.
On my six-hour drive to Tallahassee, I had nothing to do but imagine what they would be like. Are they nice? Will we have the same interests? Will we be friends?
After a day of traveling and a night’s rest in a hotel, the morning I’d always imagined arrived. I barely ate my Honey Bunches of Oats cereal that morning. My family and I arrived at the apartment complex, grabbed my fresh set of keys and headed straight to my building. I climbed three sets of stairs. With every set, I grew more out of breath, my nerves flying off the charts. Finally, I reached the top and opened the door to my new apartment.
I scanned the living room and kitchen, and instantly panicked. Boxes of junk and a crusty tiled floor loomed under my nose. I walked into the kitchen. Bread crumbs and small bugs scattered themselves across the granite countertops. A note taped on the microwave read, “Welcome new roommates.” I opened the microwave to see red gunk splattered on the inside. Could this really be the work of my new roommates?
While my eyes darted across the unit like a frantic pinball machine, my mom called the front office and screamed that the apartment was a “pig sty.” I felt like I had walked into an episode of Hoarders or Punk’d. I waited for Ashton Kutcher to emerge from one of the bedrooms, but when he failed to appear, I thought, there is no way I’m living with these people. We angrily power walked back to the front office to find out that the apartment complex had completely forgotten to clean the unit. Awesome, I thought. I’m off to a great start here.
That morning gave me a headache, but the complex put me in a spick and span unit and, lucky for me, I arrived first. My mom and my brother were eager to get back on the road, so they left me with Panera for lunch and the afternoon to myself to settle and unpack.
As I dug into my boxes and decorated my new room, I heard voices. For a second, I stopped breathing. The door opened, and I saw my new roommates and their posse of friends and family. I smiled nervously and introduced myself. My new roommates, Sou and Carly, looked shocked to see me. Apparently they weren’t expecting a fourth roommate. Before The Dirty Unit Fiasco, only three were set to live there. They told me they were both from Orlando and they were moving in together. I soon realized that I was only one out of two random roommates. I was the outsider.
I mostly kept to myself that afternoon. I floated in and out of the kitchen from my room organizing kitchen utensils, and I smiled at whoever I ran into along the way. I was happy with how things were going, but I knew that there was a lot ahead of me—like actually talking to them. After their friends and family left, the noise of hammering nails into walls ceased, and we were alone.
Okay, now what?
That night, I hung out in my room and thought about home. I wondered what my friends Nicole and Erica were doing now as they either stayed home for college or embarked on their own freshmen college adventures. I just wanted to play volleyball in Nicole’s driveway as she spiked the ball at me for hours or drive around Erica’s neighborhood on her dad’s golf cart into the wee morning hours. I glanced at the photos of my friends on my wall, and I realized that I wanted to make friendships just as good as the ones I’ve had my whole life. I knew I couldn’t show my best self as the girl who wouldn’t come out of her room.
Just minutes after I buried my face into my pillow from fear and exhaustion, I heard Sou and Carly walk into the kitchen. Should I go out there? I stared at my blank ceiling and mulled it over. What if they don’t like me? I thought back to high school when I eventually made friends, but it took longer than it should. I didn’t want to repeat those same mistakes and not try my hardest straight from the get-go. I took a breath as deep as an underwater trench, sucked up my nerves and walked into the kitchen.
When I came out of my room, I found them pleasant and easy to talk to. As we chatted about our homes, college, food, coffee, Tallahassee and our lives, I discovered that it was easy to be myself around them. I remember sitting on our comfy black leather couches, drinking a glass of red wine, and thinking I’m actually doing this. I’m talking to two strangers and getting along. This is going to work.
From then on, the three of us did everything together. We grocery shopped together almost every week, hiked on the weekends and decorated the apartment for every single holiday. When Carly and I had the apartment to ourselves (Sou was 21 and went to bars every now and then) we sat in the living room for hours laughing hysterically at YouTube videos and watching movies like The Parent Trap and Home Alone for the millionth time. When Sou was home, we bonded over our unhealthily obsession with coffee. We’d rise early in the mornings and brew coffee, sit on the couch and watch the news religiously, scoffing at presidential candidate Mitt Romney or the psycho killer Jodi Arias. I felt like the luckiest random roommate in the world.
After entering college completely alone and afraid, those years turned out to be the best two best years of my college career. When I hear students express their concerns about living with a random roommate, I tell them that they should take a chance. It worked out for me, and I wouldn’t change a single thing. Yes, there were a few lonely nights of being cooped up in my room, but if you don’t actively engage with your roomies and get to know them, you will never know what those relationships could bring. Living with Sou and Carly helped my confidence with meeting new people and gave me some of the best memories I could’ve asked for, and I can’t help but owe it all to the apartment complex who did not diligently clean each and every apartment.