OUTSIDE THE BUBBLE Close Quarters Teach Value of Life’s Essentials Coming from a family of seven, I never expected the stresses of living with a roommate to kick in. Of course I had heard stories about insomniac criers and had seen Felicity’s Wicca-worshiping friend, but I honestly have grown up knowing how to compromise and coexist peacefully. I even made room for the dogs. But in a communal living situation among strangers, our circumstances demand much more than avoiding a fight over the bathroom.

Life in the dorm is a test of patience. Chances are we will never again live in such close proximity to other people, that is unless we join a kibbutz or travel to outer space. I pray that I won’t ever have to wear shoes in the shower again. When my ninth grade roommate refused to shower for days straight, I was tempted to sleep on the street. When I have been locked out of the room with only a towel around my body, I’ve cursed the system. So why do we try so hard to make it work?

The fact remains that we are exposed to more diversity and variation in our rooms than in the classroom. When we live close enough to a stranger that we can hear them breath at night, we certainly learn the nuances of other people’s lives. This knowledge, a whisper from the heart of another person, has prevented me from stepping on my roommate of last year who wallowed across the middle of the floor for hours on end, from demanding spotlights in order to study at night, from vacuuming the room daily at 7 a.m. – though I’ve been tempted. I have lived with strangers who have kept me awake with their middle-of-the-night Instant Messenger rings and morning yoga routines, but these people have also had tangled hair and hangovers, just like me.

I’ve seen it, 10 feet away from my desk and bed.

We will never again live in such close proximity to other people. When else can I see that not everyone sleeps for nine hours a night, that everyone gets cranky once in a while, that whether rich or poor, fat or thin, hippie or athlete, we all like to get a call from home, we all worry about what the next day will bring. Some experiences connect us all.

In light of Sept. 11, an understanding of the qualities that define all people has compelled me to view the recent tragedies from a new perspective. The pain of the victims’ families is stronger, the strength of my patriotism and pride for the relief workers more long lasting; but I also see that the teenage soldier who defends Taliban cave shelters is more eager for breakfast than for holy war. His family’s teachings affect him in the same way I have been taught to stand when I hear the national anthem, to pray for the success of American soldiers, to unquestioningly accept the bombing of Hiroshima as a necessary evil.

So next time I grit my teeth when the heater breaks, when I remember that the people next door can hear my music all too clearly, when I walk across campus for a meal, I still remember that we all have the same thoughts and concerns. We can all party on the weekend and sleep through class. We can also all mourn in violent times and cry at night. Despite our faith, social status, physical appearance or dreams, we are all people taught to live and survive the best we can with what we have. A teenage Afghan soldier would want to avoid a roommate that didn’t shower, too.

Outside The Bubble appears every other Tuesday in The Hoya. The author can be reached at outsidethebubblethehoya.com.

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