I opened my school portal an hour into my shift at the blueberry farm, pacing around as my 3G service struggled to connect me to the next nine months of my life. Then, as a white Ford pick-up filled with Guatemalan field workers rolled by, I broke into a fit of laughter. Data service had found me in the middle of nowhere (OK, Exeter, Rhode Island) to tell me that my freshman year of college would take place in a single.
I had been given a single.
It was just too funny. Sure, I requested a single a month earlier on my housing application, but it was one of those things I never imagined actually happening, and now that it was, I was as shocked as the moment I was disqualified in the second round of my fifth grade spelling bee for misspelling “sheriff.” I knew it was a possibility; I just hadn’t seen it coming. Riding the high of senior spring I had convinced myself that living alone would be the ultimate act of maturity. Working three jobs and whipping my blue Toyota Corolla (sports edition) all across the grand state of Rhode Island, I was, in my mind, the definition of independent. Why not live alone?
I had full support from my mother who, like me, preferred her own company to that of any other human’s. Contrary to my mother, though, my friends thought I was crazy. They kept asking, “How are you going to make friends?” I always responded, “I’m not a complete weirdo, so it shouldn’t be a huge problem.” But there I was, laugh-wheezing in the middle of farmland a month away from move-in, wondering if I was going to be the freak at the end of the hall no one wanted to talk to.
Although I did end up being the weirdo at the end of the hall always singing Adele, I was placed on a floor that didn’t seem to mind
First semester, life in my single couldn’t have been better. One of the many perks included leaving the window open all year long. While some may feel 60 degrees is a tad brisk for a bedroom in the middle of February, I believe that fresh air is important. Bonuses included never worrying about the safety of my Diet Coke or Annie’s Mac’n’Cheese. More uniquely (and maybe insanely), I didn’t have a trash can. I wasn’t worrying about it though because taping a garbage bag to the wall and labeling it “The Trash Corner” with a post-it note IS a solution, MOM. Plus, the freedom to walk around naked helped me discover that air-drying really is the way to go.
I soon discovered the glamorous lifestyle I had grown to enjoy was unsustainable. By February, my trash corner had expanded across the room and laundry was draped over drying racks and my desk. I hadn’t actually seen my floor in weeks. In the lowest moment, I woke up to a dining hall fork in my bed. There was a mountain of empty Poland Springs water bottles forming under my bed, because while I had a trash corner, I also had a recycling cave. I needed help.
The mess was beyond my control. Being a college freshman with messy room sounds trivial and stereotypical, and I suppose it is, but that mess was seeping into my friendships and academics. I couldn’t have friends in my room and I could rarely find the books I needed for class. I know, I know, “Just pick up your room!”
But I had created a mess I couldn’t conquer alone. The long list of perks I enjoyed first semester and through Boston’s impossibly terrible winter had melted away like the snow to reveal my true dysfunction as a human being. I began to realize that living on my own didn’t mean I had to live by myself and couldn’t even if I wanted to. It was so easy to be independent in high school, with my mother reminding me to pick up my clothes and keeping the freezer stocked with ice cream (the most important food group in our family food pyramid). The last two years I had lived with just my mom, and because we weren’t really big on rules, I never realized how much I depended on her for little things.
In March, I finally reached out to my friends for help. Two of my closest pals, Maddie and Claire, volunteered for the job. They were a disaster relief team. Claire, an environmental geoscience major, hauled an industrial-sized garbage bag full of empty water bottles down three flights of stairs to the trash room to be properly recycled. Maddie sorted my laundry into piles: clean, dirty and things she wanted to borrow. Two hours, three garbage bags and four loads of laundry later, my single was ready to be featured in a Pottery Barn catalog.
So where is this mess of a human being now?
I made it through the rest of the semester without completely undoing Maddie and Claire’s relief efforts. However, I have since abandoned the idea that the single life is superior. I’ve found three future roommates who have seen the way I live and are still willing to occupy the same space as me. I’m hoping (and so are they) that respect for my roommates will prompt me to sustain a healthy living environment. But just in case, Maddie and Claire will be right down the hall.