Six names. Six names on a spreadsheet. Six names listed for a suite of six.
Six names that weren’t mine.
The writers probably smirked when they thought of me editing footage of students trying to make themselves happier — I was producing a video on “Psychology and the Good Life” — only to take a break to read those names. Those names meant that my suitemates couldn’t find a place for me to room with them after all.
Those names meant that I would spend the rest of the night vacillating between feelings of personal rejection and anger.
They had said that they would find a way to make it work. They had said that no one would be cast out. They had said that they would help me.
And then, without warning, they put their names on that spreadsheet listing next year’s suites. And they left me to stumble upon them.
I left myself to stumble upon those names.
Not because I made the room smell — I didn’t. Not because I didn’t have snacks at the ready if anybody wanted them — I did. Not because I didn’t really want to share those snacks and kept them semihidden — I will neither confirm nor deny that I did.
I left myself to stumble upon those names because I resented having a roommate. Someone who had the audacity to come into MY room while I was on the phone to grab a tie. Someone who had the audacity to relax on his OWN bed in MY room when I longed to shut everyone out and watch an episode of “The Good Place.” Someone who had every justified right to be in that space, and yet whose presence still irrationally pestered me and prevented me from feeling comfortable every day.
Plus, I had a roommate who was never meant to be my best friend. He was one that sought a Woads Scholarship, while I, not a tool who would say I sought a Rhodes Scholarship, tried to study harder. One that came into school with the names and numbers of nearly half the first-year class, while I was reluctant to accept the friend request of future classmates I had yet to meet. One who relished the opportunity to show off preppy clothing while I swore never to wear any again in lieu of sweatpants.
He wanted nothing to do with me by the first week of classes. And I didn’t care.
But was there more than this? Could I feel more at home in my room? Could I have what the movies present as the prototypical college experience — late-night talks about god knows what with a genuine friend rather than silent nods each night to bed? I obsessed over these questions.
So, when a different suitemate, one whom I would call a friend and probably should have valued more, asked if we should talk about next year’s living situation as a suite, I shrugged. I pushed it off. I didn’t want to talk about it because I wanted something different. But, what did different mean?
Around this time, I wrote my second ever column for the News with the lighthearted and upbeat title: “Do I have friends?” Suffice to say, I didn’t see an easy alternative living situation in my near future. And I didn’t know whom to turn to. So I turned to no one.
And by the time we were expected to officially form our rooms for next year, the rest of my suite assumed I had ulterior plans to form a room without them and had a set plan to replace me. Because I didn’t sit down and talk about housing with them, because I didn’t have the conversation and because I wasn’t clear and direct with them about what I was looking for and where my headspace was, they moved on. Who could blame them? They did what they had to.
Feeling regret at the unfairness of only one of us leaving the room, one of my suitemates told me no one should be abandoned. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “We will figure it out.”
That was a lie.
It came from a place of compassion. He genuinely felt concern for the predicament I was in and wanted to do all he could to help me. He even looked briefly at places where I or one person from the new suite configuration could go instead. But it was still a lie.
There was no solution to the problem of seven people wanting a spot in a six-person suite. And he couldn’t look me in the eye again and tell me there could only be six names. That there were already six names. And that not one of those six names was mine.
He left me to read them on my own.
And that — that just sucked.
Housing is a messy, awful, stress-inducing process. I have yet to meet the sociopath who looks forward to it. But a lot more anger, confusion and plain hurt comes when we aren’t direct with one another about what we’re hoping to get out of it. It didn’t offend me that I wasn’t rooming with my suite again. It offended me that they couldn’t tell me to my face I wasn’t.
Being blunt and honest with someone requires you to be vulnerable, to express exactly what you’re thinking and feeling without an escape route to take back what you think about them. It makes you ripe for ridicule if the person you are having these conversations with is not nice.
But most students — hopefully — are nice. So, be forthright and open with them about where you want to live next semester. Otherwise, the cover-up ends up being worse than the crime.
Jacob Hutt is a sophomore in Silliman College. His column runs on alternate Tuesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .