Photo by Matija Barrett
Over the years I have noticed that there is a difference between the people who lived in the dorms during college and those who did not. And I love the fact that I did.
Living in the dorms teaches you that life is not always the perfect, well-planned event you thought it would be.
College dorms are perhaps an extreme in life. Whoever thought putting hundreds of 18 to 21 year olds in tight quarters with minimal supervision for nine months of the year was a good idea was probably on crack- but every year millions of kids go off to live on campus and, for the most part, it works.
It also matures you.
As strange as that sounds, since most dorms do not resemble any living style that would normally be considered ‘mature,’ it does.
With all of the immaturity, differences in background and just plain idiocy going on most people learn something important in life.
They learn not to sweat the small stuff. Lots of stuff happens in the dorms. If you get upset with it all you will not last for long. Thankfully most people figure out how to let stuff roll off their backs without needing the help of a trained psychologist. (Though there are always a few psych students who think they can help…)
They learn to stand up for what is really important to them. Not everything counts as ‘small stuff.’ What is ‘big’ is different to different people. Communicating what someone can and can’t do in your space is an important skill, and the only way you are going to truly protect your precious stash of Ramon Noodles is to set clear boundaries. Really clear. Ramon Noodles are very popular with hungry co-eds. Buy some frozen fish and it will be all yours.
They also learn to respect other people’s boundaries. Sure, you may think that everyone likes to listen to KISS FM at three in the morning, but you may be wrong. Grouchy suite mates let you know in ways that get the point across so you never, ever do this again.
They then learn not to hold a grudge about anything said by grouchy people who are awakened by KISS FM at three a.m. If you are going to cease being friends with anyone who says anything you don’t like and hold a grudge then you will not have many friends in the dorms.
They learn to live together. Living with a variety of people in close quarters takes talent. One must realize that they will have to bend and that life will not always go the way they want it to. This makes marriage so much easier.
They also learn that many of the ‘rules’ in life are optional. These are not moral codes, but things like, ‘Use a spoon, not your fingers.’ In the dorms you learn to be flexible and use what you have. You also learn that you can go nine months without vacuuming and no one will die. These are not lessons your mother will necessarily appreciate, but they will allow you to properly prioritize when life gets busy and some things need to be ignored or you will never sleep. Children do better when parents sleep, so these are lifesaving techniques.
They also learn to be themselves. They can no longer blame things on their parents, so they must fess up and tell people they really just like going to bed at nine pm. They also cannot hide their little idiosyncrasies. When you are packed in like sardines your suite-mates know everything about you. And surprisingly, unless it is really annoying, they don’t care. You are you, and they are they and it is all okay. This is perhaps the greatest gift dorm life has for a person.
So, packing young adults into living conditions we would consider immoral to house the poor in actually works. It is not always fun, but in the end I think we ended up as better people for it. (And we all have some really funny stories we promise never to share if any of us runs for public office…)
Some things we learned include…
Everyone needs a cooking buddy, everyone.
Some rules need to be written down. These rules involve cooking.
When your friend holds a funeral for a fish, you join in, even if you don’t know the friend and were just walking by. Everyone grieves in different ways; respect it.
The person you woke up at 3 a.m. wakes up at 6 a.m. Expect retribution.
Ferrets do not like being wet.
If you cook fish, not your friend’s fish, you will find there are new cooking rules for the dorm. (Fish cooked in enclosed spaces smells, especially if it is cooked in a microwave…)
Playing hacky sac with Ramon Noodles is not a good idea. But surprisingly it does not require a vacuum to clean up.
Giving everyone a care package at the beginning of the year that includes shaving cream is not a good idea.
Female shaving creams act like carpet freshener- an unexpected side effect after the expected shaving cream war.
Don’t expect to use your shaving cream for shaving. There will be a day you will find yourself in need of arms…
The cleaning lady must love you. There’s no other explanation for why she keeps this job. Treat her well. (We love you Gail!)
Mugs can be used for soup- if you can call Ramon Noodles soup.
Mugs that have been left too long without cleaning should just be thrown out. Some things cannot be cleaned.
There are people, usually male people, who think it is okay to eat the best things off your plate. It is okay to stab said people with your fork.
Male people are good for opening jars. Their masculinity requires they do not give up without succeeding. It is therefore best not to stab them too hard and hinder their abilities.
When bored, one will watch anything on T.V. Case in point: We owned one VHS tape freshman year. We watched it over, and over, and over. I cannot for the life of me remember what movie that was… T.V. is therefore a great way to turn off one’s brain when overworked.
Falling asleep during a lecture by the dorm administrator is not seen as a sign of respect. And your dorm mates will not wake you up and help you out of this one. The longer you sleep the funnier it is, especially if you snore.
Parties in the honors dorm do not resemble parties. This is why the dorm administrator cannot find them. But it really upsets him when he sees the t-shirts for them after the fact.
Garbage cans make good punch bowls. Lampshades do not.
“Sharing your most embarrassing story” does not work as an icebreaker for the beginning of the year RA lecture. Anyone living in the dorms for over a year already knows your most embarrassing story and they are not telling since you know theirs as well. But don’t worry if you are new, you will soon be privy to all the stories. They are too good not to repeat, usually at 3 a.m.
Christmas trees planted by the dorms are sometimes rare, exotic trees that the university is very attached to and should therefore not be used for Christmas trees.
It is always best not to buy a dish brush that in anyway resembles a toilet brush and leave it in the bathroom.
If someone comes to your door selling expensive brownies it is good to be frugal.
Certain foods should be treated with care. These include jello, brownies, and raisin ice cream.