How It Feels to Like to Live With Strangers?
Growing up, living with my whole family is all I know. The longest days I was away was when I had to join some competitions far from home. It usually took 2 days, 5 days the most. During those times, there’s always an adult with me and I share rooms with more than 2 people, often with the whole delegate which were usually small.
Even during university days, I only needed to travel about 5 minutes, or even go on foot if I have the luxury of time.
Boarding houses nor dormitories were never an option. It never crossed my mind to be away from them nor could I imagine living without them particularly my mom. I had sisters who could wash our clothes together, my mom insisted to iron my uniform, something I couldn’t do. One among them do the cooking while I just focused on my studies. That was what they wanted anyway. The only chore I do was wash the dishes from time to time and make my bed every day because I didn’t want anybody else doing it for me. Although sleeping over was not necessarily prohibited, I rarely did it. It’s a personal preference being the shy and semi-introverted me.
And so a week after graduation, my sister asked if I would like to go with her. They are moving back to Metro Manila as her husband was once again assigned there. She said it’s a nice way for me to take a break after all the studying. I agreed thinking it would only be for few days or weeks the most.
Never did I imagine that my brother-in-law would talk about me to his boss. His boss was putting up a new business and in need of people. My brother-in-law asked me to try so I could earn the experience on being interviewed and applying for a job. Again, I agreed without expectations nor preparations. Never had I imagined that they’d hire me on the spot, just after asking me to introduce myself. My English was impressive they said. Being the youngest and knowing I was a newbie, I was treated gently. Everyone seemed to be supportive and friendly to me.
Since then I started training without any prior experience nor idea on what kind of job it was. I just went with the flow. I was surprised that I was able to thrive and stay although I wasn’t ready to start just yet. The whole time, I was living with my sister and seeing how tough the schedule was, she did almost everything for me. i go home and food is already prepared. She wakes up whenever i had to prepare for work, asking if I needed anything. i always asked her to go back to sleep but she didn’t until I finally left. She’d even walk me to the station since it’s still around 3:30am. She was worried about my safety.
Around 2 years after then, I found myself pregnant. We lived together and for around 10 years, we were together. Again, even without asking, he did almost everything for me. I rarely did the laundry, even the dishes this time. All I had to do was prepare myself for work and sleep and eat when at home. Even coffee is served before I even asked. It was a good life, until he left.
After over 30 years, I have to live by myself. I have to do everything by myself, for myself. It was like learning how to walk all over again. It was truly tumultuous and the most trying of times. But then circumstance led me to live with other people, people who aren’t personally related to me, not family nor relative. And how is it you ask me?
It’s quite challenging at first. It felt like living in a dorm for the first time but they aren’t your friends categorically speaking. I am older than they are and yeah, I can feel that they kind of feel awkward around me at first. We all have to adjust, reading and learning each other’s attitudes. I am a difficult one to deal with I must say. I have terrible mood swings; it drastically changes when I hear or see something that triggers it. One minute I’m jolly and cool, I’m aloof and irritable the next. I laugh and joke around with them then remind them what they had to do the next, with straight face and flat tone a minute later. They must be struggling trying to understand what mood I am in at the moment.
But I do have a lot of things I need to adjust as well. I admit, I am on the obsessive-compulsive type at times. I like order, or at least, I don’t like changing things so much. I don’t like seeing a misplaced object. It irks me when something isn’t where it was supposed or where I wanted it to be. But I always have to remind myself that I don’t own the entire place by myself. I have to remember that every corner is shared and that the only privacy I can afford is my personal space.
I value my privacy as much as it bothers me when someone touches my stuff without telling me first. Thankfully, we are the same on that area. And we do compromise, we meet halfway. We divide the chores. We set some rules, well, we break them sometimes. It wasn’t easy establishing the common ground but at times, I felt like it was out of politeness for me having a bit more authority than they do. They don’t complain when I started talking incessantly. They don’t talk when they feel like I’m being too quiet. They laugh even when I say a lame joke. I want the people around me to feel as comfortable as they can and be themselves and as natural as they can but maybe it’s hard to do as long as I hold that title. I am not complaining, rather, thankful that they adjust for me more than I do to them, I think.
It’s a journey I have been taking. It was not as hard as I thought it would be. It was helpful enough that I have known these people for quite sometime, but I’m curious as to what they really think about me. What if we are of equal status, would it be the same? What if I were the younger one, would they treat me the way they treat me now?
And this experience also makes me ask myself, has it always been easy for me? Most of my struggles are personal but when it comes to the people around me, it has always been pleasant; bearable at worst.
Have you ever lived with strangers? How was it for you? What was your biggest struggle? Would you prefer being with someone else or being alone?