I think you could officially say I am an adult now. I moved into my own apartment and am paying for it with my own pay check, from a job where I am paid staff.
I’ve hit the big leagues.
I moved in recently, with my brother, David, as my roommate. It’s a nice-sized two bed-room apartment, in the south suburbs. It feels weird to live in a place that is mine, and not my parents. It’s a really weird and amazing feeling. I am, for all intents and purposes, independent now.
And yet, when I walked in for the first time, with the key and contract in my hand; it didn’t feel like home yet. It felt empty, despite the fact that we already had furniture, and art to place on the walls, and mugs and coffee in the cupboards. It wasn’t quite home yet.
While this is my first apartment I am renting, it was not the first apartment I ever lived in. For that, we have to look back to junior year of college. However, we’ll get there in due time. There is more story to tell up to then.
I was homeschooled for much of my academic career, prior to college. I went to small private school through second grade. For the most part, it was the perfect academic alternative for my personality. I was very shy through elementary school, as well as through middle and high school. I struggled to make friends, and I never really connected with people my own age.
Being homeschooled was great in the capacity that it allowed me to learn at my own pace, as well put more focus and emphasis towards things that interested me.
However, it was also an impediment. I was spared the potentially awkward nature of a high school social setting, but that also meant I never really got the opportunity to interact with kids my own age. Therefore, my friend group consisted of kids from my neighborhood -which was a sparse group- or kids I met at youth group.
I must admit that I graduated high school with two great friends, Kevin and Dylan, who I am still very close to. Although, for the most part, I didn’t have many friendships.
So, as I looked to TV, with shows like How I Met Your Mother or the Big Bang Theory, I watched with a sense of envy. I wanted what these characters had; strong friendships and an apartment that is inconceivably affordable, for its size and location.
I went to college with two goals; to graduate, and to find my friend group. I wanted my Joey, Chandler, and Monica. I wanted people who I could rely on, and who were there for me through thick and thin. I wanted a Troy to my Abed, a Raj to my Howard.
First, I met Scott. He lived two dorm rooms down from mine. He and I weren’t close at first, but it didn’t take long for us to move past that. We were in many of the same classes freshman year. There was no singular moment that I can look back and point to and say, “That’s when we became friends.” It’s was a gradual process or laughter and share interest.
Next, I met Tom. With him, there are more definitive moments, situations where I could see us growing closer. Walks we went on that lasted for hours, or nights where he and I, and Scott, laughed well into the evening. Tom was also at my first and only college party. We both bonded over the fact that it was extremely uncomfortable.
I remember it was a Halloween party, and we both assumed that meant it was a costume party.
If it was, no one else got the memo.
We got there in costume, and maybe only three other people were dressed up. We knew absolutely no one, except the host, and trust me when I say, we didn’t intend to stay long.
I took a which “Star Wars Character Are You?” Quiz, and did my best to avoid the makeshift dancefloor. If you’re wondering, I got Obi-Wan from the prequels. When we did eventually leave, we ended up at a Denny’s and hung out there. I will always remember that night fondly.
Trevor hated me when he first met me, and with good reason. I went to college with a sarcastic attitude, and I was brutally honest and brusk at all times. I figured an edgier personality might help me make more friends. It did not.
At the end of freshman year, I remember Trevor and I asking each other what each other’s first thoughts were when we met. Trevor used some colorful language to describe how he felt about me when we first met. For the sake of record, I will redact that information.
I must have grown on him at some point, because he became one of my best friends. The first time though that I remember the tide shifting from Trevor hating me, I was sitting in the hall of our dorm working on an assignment, and Trevor came into the hall and asked, “What are you doing?” He didn’t wait for me to answer, “Would you be willing to go on a walk, so I can talk to someone?”
I looked up and knew this walk needed to happen. Trevor didn’t seem okay. I smiled, “Let me put on my shoes.” We walked for four hours, as I listened and he talked about life, family, love. It was that day that any roots of dislike or anger at one another were uprooted and replaced with seeds of friendship.
That was the beginning. Those were the origin stories.
I had my friend group.
We had our ups and downs. College is like a pressure cooker for relationships; friendships and romantic relationships alike. You spend all your time with these people. They see you on pendulum of emotion, from your very best to your very worst. When I say Tom, Scott, and Trevor have seen some best successes, and some of my worst failures, I truly mean it. And worse yet, they were in the splash zone.
However, we always found a way to forgive one another, even it took a really long time to get there.
We were a pack, and we never traveled alone. We had professors who used to joke, that when you saw one us, you could make a safe bet that another one of us was nearby, if not the whole group.
So, when we got the opportunity to move off-campus, and move into the college apartments, it seemed like every pubescent, sit-com fueled dream of mine was coming true. I had great friends, and now my own apartment. There was only one problem.
It was nothing like what I expected.
There is something tricky about expectations, in that they often leave us feeling disappointed.
I learned this when I was much younger. In 2006, riding off the blockbuster success of its predecessor, as well as the other films similar to it, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer made its way to theaters throughout the country. It had beautiful special effects, involved world-shattering stakes, and brought the mysterious harbinger of doom, the Silver Surfer, into the public’s eye. It had all the makings of an economic success, as well as potential critical success. Pretty people doing cool things with a huge budget; isn’t Hollywood grand?
I was stoked. Commercials had been circulating for months. Toys had hit stores’ selves. The movie even got sponsorship from the car company, Dodge, who made their rendition of the “Fantasti-Car” for the film.
I was so excited, and I had built this film up to astronomical proportions. This was going to be the height of media, and nothing was going to stop me from seeing it. I had such high expectations that could never be met. Even if the film hadn’t been a complete flop, which it was, it was never going to be what I had built up in my head.
The issue at hand was that we often build up these ideas and scenarios in our mind, that can never actually be lived out, so we end up disappointed. This is the struggle with expectations, we either set the bar unrealistically high, or we set the bar painfully low. No matter which way land on this, we have been disappointed, and we probably will be again.
This is what I was experiencing in my apartment, during my junior year of college. I expected it to be like an average Big Bang Theory episode, where no matter what had happened throughout the day/week, my friends and I would end up eating Chinese food, sharing about our perspective days, and the hijinks we had gotten ourselves into, and subsequently out of. I expected what I had always seen on TV, but that’s not real.
What I wanted was a glamorized, clean, easily-resolvable world.
Think for a moment. How many problems in any given episodes of Friends, goes unresolved? How about The Office? Parks and Recreation? It may take a several episode story arc, but at the end of a 30-minute stretch, you will see character come to grips with heartbreak, losing a family member, getting fired from their job, and so on.
Life is not that way. It’s not that easy. Pain, struggle, and grief is not so easily overcome.
The times spent in our apartment were not always time spent with smiles on our faces. It wasn’t always time spent eating takeout, talking about the problems we had overcome that episode.
Many of the times spent within those walls were spent grieving, talking about our growing pains, crying over our losses, sharing about how we missed the mark. Our apartment was more akin to an episode of This Is Us, rather than Scrubs.
However, I must admit, those are times I will miss. I will miss that apartment, with our sloped floors and ugly, stained carpet. I will miss our balcony that was way too wobbly to be safe. I will miss the conversations that took place, and the question of the future that had yet to be answered. I will miss those moments, because I began to understand what all of those shows were about.
We as humans thrive when we are in community.
Shows like Friends and Seinfeld still are regarded as top tier media, not only because its humor transcends time, but because it touches on an innate desire within all of us. We all wish we had a tight knit friend group like those we see on sit-coms. We desire to share our lives with others; family, friends, significant others, even our therapist.
We all need people who either understand where we’re coming from or are willing to hear us out.
Sure, maybe not every day of college was all lollipops and rainbows. Maybe some days were bad, and they made me just want to scream, cry, or eat, or a weird combo of all three. However, what I experienced in that apartment was community. People who I knew had my back, and they knew I had theirs. I had a sounding board, people who would listen to every idea, story, and failure.
The day of my Uncle’s memorial, the beginning of junior year, Scott and Trevor drove up to the church with me. They spent their entire Sunday helping my family set up, and tear down. More importantly, they helped my family grieve. They allowed us to feel the weight of loss, unfiltered and uncensored. After the service, and a brief dinner, Scott and Trevor came over to my parents’ house. It was January, so we threw on an extra layer, and then we went on a walk.
My parent’s neighborhood is off a major through road, and yet it is shockingly quiet. Especially in winter. We walked and just talked, about my Uncle Bob, about his life, about our own lives, and our own legacies. Somewhere along the way, we ended up at my old elementary school. We sat on the old swing set I feel off many times in kindergarten, scraping my knees, and one time, cutting up my neck. That’s why I don’t attempt back flips anymore.
I sat there, on these old rusty swing sets, that I hadn’t been on in over fifteen years, with some truly amazing people. Friends who loved me, and whom I loved.
I thought about how I had envisioned my life would turn out, when I was in Kindergarten. What I would be like when I was in college? I realized I was nothing like what I expected, nor was college anything like I had always thought it would be. And yet, that’s the funny thing about expectations.
Sometimes our reality exceeds our expectations. Those friends and that apartment pay tribute to that fact. Was it perfect? No. However, in its own, it also kind of was.
I’m not joking. Stop reading for a moment and look it up.