By Kathryn Ellison
Most students know that moving in with their first year friends will stretch their friendships, but I don’t think
that anyone in our house could have possibly anticipated the effect of being locked down together in the biggest national disaster since the second world war, and, for many, the most life-changing event they’ve ever experienced, when houses were signed last Autumn.
As a self-titled “Durham long-hauler”, who’s been lurking in the city since early July, and as someone who absolutely refused to spend Epiphany term at home (that is, unless Boris offers to pay my £500 monthly rent), I have become very familiar with the dynamic of our silly little Whinney Hill house, and, as an extrovert who signed a house with five introverts, been made painfully aware of how dependent I am on others.
I will be the first to admit that I am a terrible person to live with. My ghastly taste in music, the clumsiness with which I commandeer the kitchen to cook my weekly “big soup”, and the fact that I cannot go longer than three hours without forcing someone to join me for a cup of tea, makes me certain that I am a huge strain on the patience of my already incredibly patient housemates. Just this week I have spilt a huge pot of leftovers on the kitchen floor, and spent a while curled up at the bottom of my housemate’s bed like a pet cat when she moved back in after Christmas.
Even so, living with friends whose personalities completely differ from my own has taught me valuable lessons about the art of appeasing the introvert. I have learnt that running into my housemate for breakfast before a 9am class is a much preferable affair if the conversation is small and mindful, and also that sometimes I just need to let myself enjoy a quiet type of companionable silence. Allowing myself to feel like I don’t have to fill up every single gap in a conversation during an after dinner lull has actually become quite liberating in an odd way, and as anyone who lives with quiet bookish types will tell you, you gain a lot of knowledge about how to care for other people’s houseplants.
Another bump I have encountered is living in a male-dominated household for the first time. At home, I have a sister, a mother, and a father who doesn’t think it’s worth it to put up a fight. Adjusting to the masculine sense of interior design was certainly a struggle at first, and while I am sometimes embarrassed when someone spots me using my housemate’s Top Gear mug on a zoom call, living with men who don’t appear to spend too much time in the physical plane has allowed me to care considerably less about keeping up appearances.
There aren’t many benefits to living during a period of time which feels like the government is lurching us from disaster to crisis and back again, but I am grateful for the chance to form a tighter bond with the friends that I live with. Eventually, when life returns to whatever type of “normal” possible in a vaccinated and less
virtual world, I am sure we will, for better or for worse, look back on the quiet evenings with a kind of warm nostalgia.
Photograph by Beatrice Law