So recently — after requesting my favorite dorms, reporting my lifestyle preferences, and selecting “RANDOMLY ASSIGN” for my roommate selection — I received my housing and roomie verdict. Eek!
My roommate–Kiki–and I exchanged some emails. In one of our very first messages I sent her this very cordial introduction:
So quick intro. I’m Michele: Chinese, American-born. I like biology a lot but I’m not sure what career I want. I also am really into creative writing/English, which is why I applied for the Perspectives in Humanities residential program we’re in. I really like Spotify, Snapchat, the TV shows Elementary and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Tumblr. I’m really excited for Penn, as it was basically my top choice. I’m most looking forward to the Kelly Writers House, bonding with PIH, exploring Philadelphia, and attending some Philly music concerts!
A decent scratch of the surface. But the romantic in me wants to write this flowery letter that unfolds my inner identity, the essence of my being. In some respects, honesty seems fairest: shouldn’t I warn her in advance how messed up I am?
So long intro. I’m Michele: thoughtful, passionate. When you meet me, you’ll probably be confused because I’m introverted, chatty, shy, and bold at the same time. I’m only occasionally anti-social, and I’m not sure what causes the switch. I’m honestly intimidated by strangers, especially those my age. Small talk is impossible to maintain. Once I’m comfortable with you, however, you can’t shut me up; I’m fangirly, profane, and hyperactive (in short bursts). There is no doubt that I’ll be eager to like and befriend you; it is very likely that I’ll like you more than you’ll like me.
In terms of temperament, I have to say you found someone decent. I consider myself pretty open-minded and accepting. I’m not annoyed easily: unless you snore or sniffle, we shouldn’t have a problem! I like to jump into friendship IMMEDIATELY and I’ll want to know all about you. Despite my impulses (to take things personally, to be clingy, to be nosy), I understand the right thing to do and will respect your boundaries. I’ll be considerate because I’m terrified of getting on someone’s bad side. I’m quite self-conscious in that way. I’m also a pretty good listener and I can give advice when asked to, though success wildly varies. And I hope you agree that I have amazing taste in music.
I have to warn you, though: I can get very sad at night. I can’t explain it, except that everything seems much more lonely and hopeless in the dark. Being a night owl doesn’t help. On low nights I can replay all my mistakes, gnaw on future anxieties, and worry about death. Sometimes, I’ll just need some space as I listen to sad music and angst-write. Other times, I’ll really need someone. I hope that doesn’t inconvenience you.
Other potential inconveniences: first and foremost, I’m messy. A complete slob. I hate hanging up my clothes and I like eating laying down. I’ll try to control the clutter, for your sake, but I’ll probably never make my bed (what’s the point?). I’m kind of gross, too. My table manners are not up to standard, and I should wash my hair more. I stay up too late. I’m too crazy about boys. I’m sensitive and tearful. I can be bitchy.
I talked about my excitements for college; here are my fears: I’m afraid of struggling academically. I’m afraid of being so busy that I won’t explore or enjoy myself. I’m afraid no one likes me as much as I like them. I’m afraid of becoming hardened and cynical. I’m afraid of choosing a joyless, stable career over a true passion. I’m afraid I don’t have a choice.
I watched The Intern and one aging character said something like: “First date conversations are fruitless. At this age it’s impossible to catch up.” As silly as it sounds, that reminded me of college…from kindergarten to high school, our peers for the most part grew up with us; even those we’re not friends with know us. In college, no one knows you. You’re just a fresh face in a sea of strangers. True strangers.
The first week of college will consist of awkward mingling and over-exaggerated smiles. I can’t fathom what it’ll be like to have to re-introduce myself — to re-explain who I am over and over. Five-minute ice breakers aren’t enough to explain the eighteen years that led to who I am now. I’m scared that no one — not even you, roommate — will be able to catch up.