Tonight there was a “get to know your neighbor” event in my apartment complex. I’m an introvert, so I am really uncomfortable in these sorts of settings. Meeting lots of new people is not really my thing, contrary to my line of work. However, I don’t like that I know none of my neighbors. Reminding myself that I would never know anyone if I didn’t go, and that they would only be strangers until I met them, I went. And it was as awkward as I had expected. There were some homemade desserts, and a handful of other neighbors (all of whom were owners of condos, not renters). I met most of them. Talked to one guy for a while.
He and his wife live in the apartment that I was pretty sure hated me. They had this dog, (I learned they recently got rid of her) who ALWAYS barked at Tuck (or me, not sure) every time we went for a walk. She barked incecently. Of course, Tuck always stops to sniff the bushes in front of there the longest. So the dog keeps barking. I was SURE that the occupants of this apartment hated me walking my dog and were really sick of Tuck getting their poor little angel all excited. I quit walking him that way. And, they have a big sign in front of their unite that says no pooping. I’m always afraid Tuck’s gonna think that’s where he should go. I thought it best to avoid it all.
Turns out that whole thing was in my head. Go Figure.
Besides learning that maybe I should quit thinking all my neighbors hate me, I learned that my years working in housing have ruined me. I kept catching myself thinking “that’s not what you do” or “what about…” the whole time. Here are a few of my student affairs minded take aways:
- The “Real World” does not care if people know your name. There were no name tags. No ice breakers or crazy name games. Nothing. People just shook hands, and said their name once. They left off the important things, like what picnic item they would take with them, or an adjective that describes them… How will people know who I am if they don’t know that I’m Sleepy Sarah and I take Sweet Tea to picnics?!
- Ice is best left ignored. Unless it’s in a bowl for your drink. How are we supposed to build community if we don’t do awkward things like fall of ledges and expect people to catch us, or make giant knots with our hands? Nothing builds friendships like lack of personal space.
- No one cares about the maintenance issues in your house. This lady was there, she was 79. She locked herself out of her apartment. The office was closed for the day. And, well, she was just out of luck and home until the next day. No one was around to let her in, and no employee of the complex was going to come get her an extra key. That’s just wrong. When she told people, the other residents were like, “well that stinks” and moved on to awkward silence. That’s just wrong. So one lady’s boyfriend jimmied the lock. That’s just awkward. And a little scary. If you need me, I’ll just be locking myself in my apartment, with a couch in front of the door.
- Politics are everywhere. When I walked in, I stood next to this woman. I was trying to form a circle between two groups (Which failed, epically, of course). This woman did the introduction in point 1 and then told me that she was running for a spot on the HOA board and I should vote for her. I replied, “I’m a renter, so I don’t think I get to vote”. She replied “Oh, well nice to meet you”. Awesome. Glad my vote doesn’t matter. Let me just move to Florida. (Ironically, that’s where she is originally from.)
- Don’t even try to merge social groups. Ok, so this isn’t that different from on campus housing. The main difference is that it’s a lot more awkward to try when it’s not your job. People just think you are that weird girl. Which I might be, but still.
- It is a small world. I met a family from Sweden. They are here working in the states for a year. (For the record, they like our food better). I didn’t ask if they have better Ikeas over there…. Also, I met people originally from all over the US. Diversity is all around us.
I have learned a lot of lessons since I moved off campus. Tonight, I came home and thought, “Man, I really wish we had an RA”. Maybe I should pitch the idea to my landlord for a rent reduction or a meal plan? I could make some awesome door decs….
What are your biggest grown up life lessons?