Benefits of Living in Community: When Friends Become Family

I have roommates from college that I cannot remember the last names of. One girl I lived with at UAA for five months refused to talk to me at all. I don’t think I ever even learned her name. I saw her only a handful of times when walking in and out of our shared kitchen/bathroom area. The only thing I knew about her came from when the police showed up at 4:00 am for a welfare check because someone had called in that she was suicidal.
Other roommates I recall our crazy escapades when I go through picture albums and others I keep up with on Facebook, enjoying their baby pictures and career accomplishments.
I am sure that it is apparent from my previous posts that the community that we have built together is far deeper than what I shared with any previous roommate. It’s not forced cohabitation, or polite acquaintance, or even a giggly fun friendship that I shared with previous roommates.
This friendship has become family.
When we sit around the dinner table together, or conversations remind me of those I had growing up with my family, although I’m pretty sure the ones we have now have a lot more discussion of legalism, STDs, and feminism (nothing like a graphic warning to your teenager about chlamydia when they are eating). When I get home from work, when we sit around watching movies, when we go on a trip together, when we work on projects, or when we celebrate traditions together it feels like family.
Not every roommate situation can or should be like this. There are a lot of short term situations where it wouldn’t be worth it to go beyond a casual friendship. It was hard work getting to this point. There was a lot of family meetings, a lot of late night discussions, a lot of planning, and a lot of scrapping of plans that didn’t work. There has been painful honesty, uncomfortable apologies, open forgiveness, and generous sharing. There have been fights with some very creative insulting names thrown at each other.
Just like family.
Some people want to define family by the genes they share but there has been far too much adoption in my family for me to believe that. Of my parent’s fifteen grandchildren, five are genetically related to each other, but they are all cousins.
Some people want to define family by a fifties fairytale of a man and wife and their 2.5 children and a white picket fence. They say that modern society is ruining the definition of families by being too inclusive. When I describe this as a fairytale, it’s because this idea of family was never actually prevalent. With a death in child birth rate of nearly 40 percent in the 1800’s, the existence of step families is nothing new and most families included grandma and grandpa or aunt and uncle in the same household.
With the economy tanking, foreclosure rates and educations costs sky rocking the new norm is house sharing, whether it be a college graduate with mom and dad, or grandma in an attached apartment or four thirty somethings sharing an overpriced apartment there are many of benefits to living in community.
I believe the very best benefit for me was my family to love.


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