I Didn’t Expect to Have a Roommate in My 30s—But Here’s Why I’m Loving It

published Jun 8, 2019
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Credit: Ivo de Bruijn/Stocksy

Last year, I found out two things: I wanted to keep dating the nice guy I met on Tinder who, very quickly after that, got a job in Nashville. I found out immediately after that I didn’t like long distances at all. Ten months in, I was so ready to be done with the indignities of modern air travel and the loud tick-tick-ticking of the countdown clock to our next reunion, I more or less announced I’d move to Tennessee in 2019. But because we’d lived apart for nearly all our relationship, me moving south and moving in together seemed like two very big steps into the unknown.

I had certain expectations for where I’d be at the cusp of 30, and I knew that it didn’t involve still having to label my cheese. And Nashville offered a unique opportunity previously unattainable to my six years living in New York: living alone.

But there were a few reasons that finally living alone didn’t appeal. The biggest, perhaps most embarrassing, reason had to do with my cat, Pickles. If she took a Meyers-Briggs test I have no doubt she’d be a classic extrovert. She thrives off attention. Though I wasn’t going to be living with Noah, I knew I’d be spending a good amount of time there. (In practice, we hit a 50/50 split with about one night apart a week.) I wanted roommates who would be able to keep an eye on her water bowl and maybe even cuddle and pet her a bit when I was spending time at Noah’s place.

So I decided to move in with a friend who, coincidentally, needed to find a new renter for the extra bedroom in her house.

Yes, I know this decision isn’t anything new or revolutionary. Having roommates well into your 30s (and beyond) is becoming more common than ever. Much of it is out of economic necessity: Stagnant wage growth, student loan debt, delayed marriage, and rising housing prices mean most people need to split the rent. Up until very recently, only a handful of my college and high school classmates were able to live alone before moving in with a partner. Even fewer own homes.

Still, me deciding to live with roommates, not alone or with Noah, came as a shock to some of my friends and family members. After I signed the lease, my dad called me, sounding concerned.

“Your mom told me you’re going to be living with roommates,” he said. “Is money that bad?”

At my age, my father was married to my mother and a homeowner. Though Nashville is becoming pricy, the cost of living is drastically lower than what I was used to on the coast. I assured him this, thankfully, wasn’t the reason why. While I do appreciate the lower rent, I could have swung a studio alone.

Beyond my cat concerns, I thought a roommate would allow some luxuries I couldn’t get living solo: For one, I got to live in a house—something that would otherwise have been impossible alone. After living in a teeny Manhattan apartment for half a decade, being able to just step barefoot into a backyard whenever I wanted seemed like a revelation. And since my roommate already lived in her home, all I had to worry about was furnishing my own room. I was leaving all my furniture behind in Harlem and this significantly helped my moving costs.

Then there was my social life. I was nervous about letting my relationship consume all my time. I have friends in Nashville, but considering how much effort it can take to match schedules, I knew it would be too easy to just opt to do things as a duo. Living with a roommate meant that interacting with people besides Noah was inevitable—not optional.

It’s been about six months since moving in with my roommate, and despite the fact that that also means living with her three-year-old (perhaps the biggest cause for eyebrow-raising), the situation is so much better than I could have expected. It hasn’t just been convenient—its been fun. Much more fun living with roommates in my early 20s had ever been. Not that I didn’t love my previous roommates; it’s just the logistics of cohabitation always felt so fraught. The daily irritations of having to account for another person, I discovered, eased with maturity. At 29, renegotiating dishes, chore schedules, and toilet paper purchasing has a kind of ease I hadn’t experienced before.

In fact, my roommate and I are often falling over ourselves to do things that would have been resentful stand-offs in the past. Recently, we ran out of trash bags. A day later, my roommate, her boyfriend, and I had all gone out and bought a box of 40 trash bags. We now have 120, and are now what she refers to as “trash bag rich.” In the past, similar buying behavior has made us foil rich, soap rich, and paper towel rich.

Having older housemates also comes with a reliability I didn’t have—and certainly couldn’t provide—in my more callow years. If I can’t run to the grocery store, I can borrow a banana, or avocado, or eggs. There are no passive aggressive notes. I just remember to buy extra when I can. That random windfall wouldn’t happen if I was living with a partner. Even living apart, Noah currently split and share nearly all our meals. If I’m out of bread, so is he.

Life is long, and I don’t know the future, but, if things continue, I will move in with Noah soon and may never live with a roommate again. Because of this, I really am taking the time to appreciate the surprise empty dishwashers, trash already taken to the curb, and packages placed in my room. For the first time, and perhaps because it feels, also for the first time, like a choice to live with another person, I can focus on the benefits, not just the negatives.

Another unexpected blessing? I also am getting one more, clear-headed chance to think about what things I value in a home and in a roommate. One more opportunity to try out setting those expectations (and meeting someone else’s) before I do it with Noah.

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