Change Knocks

Inhale………………………………………………….. exhale.

Exhale some more…………………………………….hmmmmmmmmph.

I check my phone’s walk-o-metre – it reads new record. 11.7km619 calories, just today.

I was on the kind of walk where you lose track of time and mentally throw away the list of things to do.

It was rare I walked alone.

Dog owners understand this. There’s like this guilt the minute you decide to leave the house without a lead in hand and a pair of fluffy paws.

With poodles it’s more of a dramatic departure, complete with a Rose and Leo Atlantic ocean of tears, stages of grief, ect. You usually can still hear said wails of disappointment, a few streets away.

On this walk however, I was released from that usual feeling on account I felt numb.

It’s funny with people- we complain that we feel stuck in the sameness, the monotony of life and then in other parts, we complain life is too tumultuous. Too chaotic, like life is happening to us without any kind of grip.

I think I was feeling rather in-between those, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

This feeling usually came about whenever a flatmate of mine told me they were leaving, usually pretty abruptly.

My track record for this year was 3; coincidentally all 19/20 year-old girls. You think I would have learned my lesson that that age group weren’t the most stable of housemates, or people really. Their ideas and thoughts were constantly in flux. However I think that was also part of the charm. The fun, excitement and the relatability.

To make the situation slightly more stressful was that it was my responsibility as the lease holder to find someone suitable, with a month’s notice- not to mention we were in the middle of a pandemic and situated kind of in a hot zone…..

Last year I was really lucky in that the flatmates I had turned into friends and stayed for the duration of the year. We had the best time, kinda like a make-shift sorority. Complete with drunk yoga, drunk Zumba, a mermaid party or two and a pink-dyed poodle flying about that doubled as all of our babies.

We had movie nights, dinner parties and breakfast debriefs about what books we were reading and what men we were eating. We even inherited, (for some reason) the weird habit of drinking wine from baby bottles, our Australian scaled-down equivalent of a keg-stand.

However this year, the flavours hadn’t been so complimentary. Or they had for an earthshakingly-sweet honeymoon phase, lasting a month or two, before having a sudden shift one week where they would ignore you/slam things as a means of non-verbally communicating they were leaving, before abruptly giving their notice.

The first time it happened I made sure to say all the right things to their faces, and then went on a long solo walk and cried.

The second time, I remained calm as one flatmate yelled she wasn’t going to stay from the kitchen in a bizarre listing of the dog being the reason and not the idea that she had to have a tantrum, instead of constructive conversation when miscommunications happened. I then looked to my left flatmate for guidance who was sitting down next to me, who then said out of nowhere that she too decided she would leave. But in her case, for medical reasons. Only for them to leave together and move into what is probably hell, homing not two but three freshly sliced 20 year-old-girls, with the communication styles of chinchillas.

In that double-jepardy act, I made sure to say reassuring things to their faces and then left for a solo walk, but this time, to yell.

However today, I went about my confused meandering through Glebe without doing either of those things.

I did call my friend Stacey though, for a chat as I did still feel weird.

” What did she say again? I’m confused.”

” So it came in waves. The first wave came out kind of angry and immature. Like I asked her why after a week she was ignoring me and when I was trying to sort it out she was eye-rolling the entire time until I just said, “Look, I’m not going to try and sort this out for the both of us, if you’re going to do that.” And left the room. ”

” Weird, okay. And then?”

” And then the second time came out in a flood of tears and confusion about 2 minutes later. She was like, ” I’m depressed, I’m sick and I don’t feel like the house is mine. It’s all your furniture everywhere….. I wanted to be happy here since I came but I just haven’t…. your tea stains my mugs.”

” You don’t wash your mugs?”

” I do too! I tried to get it out just the other day, but they’re all stained. I should google that… Anyway… Basically saying all these things that I’ve never heard her comment on before, but that made perfect sense. So the second wave made me feel like I couldn’t really be that mad. I mean, I remember feeling the same way at the last place I was at.”

It’s funny how male and female flatmates are generally very different creatures. S- my first male tenant here was incredibly practical, to the degree of a serial killer. He brought not even a bed-frame and keeps 4 things total in his room. The only decorative object being a coloured mood light from Kmart.

However I don’t think gender is the main factor to decide which lane you’re in; minimalist or nesting hen.

My first two female flatmates I had didn’t bring any furniture beside their room stuff and they liked it that way. However my current flatmate was like me- she needed to nest.

I think perhaps it reflects an unmet need to be surrounded in comfort, in order to feel at home in a space. Our ties to objects, like anchors to happiness and the keys of memories past.

And I did try my best to make her feel at home; I walked her and my dog everyday while she was at her 9-5 job. I put pictures of us up from my birthday and even framed some of her art. She even put her rug down in the lounge room for a while, however I couldn’t say yes to all of her wants.

Like painting the house pink when it wasn’t even ours or painting my new coffee table pink when it wasn’t even hers. But I could stop drinking my tea from her cups, and find some bleach…

Upon my wandering, I passed a lady in her mid 30’s with a familiar face. She was sniffing flowers, and it was only when she looked up did I realise she was one of the ladies I had interviewed as a potential flatmate ages ago. She seemed crazy at the time, very highly-strung. I looked away.

But I guess that’s the thing about people, you don’t know if you can live with someone until you try.

16 different personality types, different needs for living and levels of comfort, individual values and good but also bad habits.

Like I hoard shampoo bottles apparently. I think we counted 7 bottles in the shower one time and one bottle of conditioner.

My other male flatmate’s worst habit is this inability to not blast the Tv or his music at all hours. And he also tries to win arguments when things aren’t arguments.

My current female flatmate’s worst habit is probably that she doesn’t walk her dog enough. And because he’s a poodle his anxiety translates into endless barking if he doesn’t run it out of his system. ( So I end up walking him for her ).

And ironically both are polar opposites in sleep cycles, with one being an insomniac and the other hitting the sheets at sometimes as early as 8pm.

But despite these traits we all have good ones too.

Like Kevin – my flatmate’s dog loves to deliver morning cuddles. And he’s my dog’s best-friend.

(Before our week of silence), my female flatmate and I usually get on like a house of fire, due to our joined experience of not being cooking-friendly while also being around the same age.

And my male flatmate makes the best Indian food everrr and even shares it with us!

And I like to think I bring a certain sprinkle of random (sometimes a little wild) creativity into the house, not to mention donuts.

But back on my walk, I think I realised that my mind wasn’t racing with the usual anxious, worst-case scenarios it usually runs to in times of change.

Instead, it was lightly humming with the possibilities of someone new.

And how the ebb and flow of the house would shake in its boots a little at the start- but that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. It would mean new mugs…. Hmmmm.

I don’t know when I started believing this idea that change in regards to the house was something to worry about.

I guess maybe after a few bad flatmate experiences or maybe from having the best of intentions with people and then it still not panning out how I planned. But that was life wasn’t it?

I think a hard lesson to learn or maybe relearn in this whole experience of flatmates come and flatmates go, is that not every friendship and person you meet will end with a nice bow on top and a thank you card. No matter how well you treat each other.

Perhaps it would be easier to not be friends, less messy perhaps. Like a loveless marriage, the flatmate letter of occupation could be the marriage certificate and the love would be if they let my pup take lunchtime naps with them.

To be honest, I tried that this time around and found it a struggle to not wear my heart on my sleeve when it came to people I lived with. It was just so easy to know them, and laugh with them over a cup of tea or the dog’s doing something totally disgusting but hilarious. And this grew harder, especially in lockdown which made us each others only social experience of the week.

Maybe with the next flatmate I have, I will make sure to pick someone I can’t bond with at all, like a night shift worker. That way it will be easier to have them come and go, and I’ll feel at peace rather than have a pair of sore feet and a 10km walk to nowhere.

Or maybe they will be the friend, soulmate-love-of-my-life and end up stealing all my furniture.

Who knows.

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