I woke up early Monday morning to study for my last final of the semester in our off-campus home. It was still dark outside and rather gloomy, but the cup of coffee in my hand and the holiday decorations in our living room created a warm and inviting atmosphere. I had no choice but to jam out to my favorite Michael Bublé song (“jamming” used loosely because it was 5 AM and all of my housemates were sleeping).
As I turned on the Christmas tree lights, I couldn’t help but remember how much fun I had putting them up with my housemates. I scrolled through the photos I had of that night, making a mental note to print them out later. I thought of more productive ways to procrastinate. I considered cleaning the floors and making more coffee. Then I looked at the photos again.
And that’s when I realized a critical, undeniable, heart-wrenching fact- that I only had one more semester left as an undergrad, and only a handful of months (five) left living with my closest friends in my second home.
Step 1: Panic and Freak Out
Although it is creaky and falling apart, our off-campus New Brunswick home is something I have come to love dearly, no doubt because of the people in it. It was a “Brett house,” passed down to us from the previous owners. Living in Brett Hall had its perks (such as meeting all of the people that I now live with), but there is a certain independence that comes with living in your own house, with cooking your own food, with not wearing shoes in the shower. You learn things like a) turning up the heat really high results in an insanely high bill and b) you can lose your hamster in a small room and c) just because you can eat three dinners doesn’t mean you should.
There is a certain freedom that comes with sharing a house with your best friends. We are a mix of girls and boys with different personalities, so a day in our house is like an episode of Friends. There are conflicts you have to work through (chores), schedule differences you have to plan around (showers), and unforgettable traditions that inevitably emerge as a result of living together. Living off-campus was an integral part of my college experience and I recommend it to anyone who thinks they might be interested.
I’ll never forget the first time I called this house my home. I had a lengthy day of class, followed by two shifts at two jobs that I worked back to back. It had been a terribly stressful day and someone asked me if I wanted to go out. I politely declined, realizing that the only place I wanted to be was my home. Cue a feeling of realization. My house felt like my home! And when I came home I found my friends all sitting together and laughing. That was only the start of the feeling of warmth that I associate with the place and it has only grown since.
Step 2: Reflect (and tear up)
There are many memories that I want to treasure forever- and others I am afraid I have already lost. Cue scrapbook time (I’m looking at you, roommate):
- Spontaneous cookie baking
- Decorating everything–even the paintings
- Pets–our fluffy groundhog, hamster, our temporary puppy Baxter and newest garbage squirrel
- Domino’s Pizza with pigs in a blanket crust
- Friendsgiving with Boston market
- Nineties’ nights of singing and dancing
- House costumes for Halloween (Toy Story, Mean Girls)
- Sharing clothes
- Ordering milkshakes… all of the time…
- Harry Potter marathon
- Everyone sharing the same Netflix account
- Watching Friends and Jane Austen movies with J 😮
- Secret Santa–a four-year tradition
- Finding all sorts of friends crashed on your couch in the morning
- Talking, talking, talking, laughing, laughing, laughing
- Creating our own slounge (study lounge) in the living room during finals…
Step 3: Accept (and go back to studying for finals, you procrastinator)
The week before freshman year started, I was visiting my brother in Moscow. I was saying goodbye to him at the airport when he gave me a big hug and said, “Treasure the next four years of your life, little sister. These are the golden years. Spend your time wisely.”
At least that’s what I remember him saying. In real life, it wasn’t as flawless, Andrey.
Nevertheless, I have five more months to treasure undergrad and I’m happy to say that this far, my experience has been nothing short of amazing.
Knowing that my friends won’t be a door-knock away come June makes me incredibly sad. Not knowing if we will be able to stay in touch makes me anxious. However, we all have dreams to catch and time isn’t waiting for us. It’s only December, but three of my housemates have jobs lined up! Another might live on the West coast. My roommate is going to be a lawyer. I am about to buy tickets to travel the world for a month after graduation…
… and I’ve realized an incredibly important thing in my time here. Nobody knows what they’re doing, no matter how old they are. We’re all trying to figure this life out, one day at a time. There is no set time when every puzzle piece falls into place. It doesn’t matter if you’re 10, 20, 50, or 80.
There is so much that we have left to do, and though I’m not ready to let go yet, I have 5 more months left. I’m going to make the best of my time here.