Featured photo taken one year ago by MJ.
I wrote this piece thirteen days ago. This is for my three amazing apartment mates without whom I don’t know what I would have done this year… Publishing on the last day of classes with just about a week or two left of living together in close quarters.
An open letter to my introverted apartment mates,
We’re finally reaching the end of the school year. You’ll be leaving in May, graduating and going off to do the amazing things you’ve all been preparing yourselves during these past four years. The knowledge of having to eventually say, “goodbye,” to you three haunts me every day, especially as we get closer and closer to the moment we say, “cheese!” in front of a camera: the three of you in your red gowns and me in a summer dress, trying to look cute and dandy, to make up for my sadness because I myself won’t be graduating. Summer will fly by and in a few months I will be returning to school for the fall semester as a fifth year student but you won’t.
What’s really daunting is the thought that the faces I woke up to every morning this past year will no longer be in the same apartment as mine, let alone town, perhaps even state or country. There will be no more, “Tea, anyone?” or “Look at the sunset, it’s really pretty today” or “I’m hungry, let’s get Thai food.” There will be no more of me turning off the lights you leave on, no more of you pushing my clothes off my bed so we can talk about nothing or everything, no more of us picking up on each other’s mundane quirks and treasuring them as the adorable idiosyncrasies that make each of us who we are.
Of course, Lani, you say there’s a possibility that you’ll be at home, just a town over from me, and while I would love to have you as my neighbor for those days I’ll miss you, my sincerest wish is for you to be out there at an archaeological dig somewhere in Africa or teaching students in France! Likewise, my excitement to hear that, Julia, you might be working in a town closer to my home town, is overpowered by an even greater desire for you to be exploring your talents and passions as a writer in the Big Apple. And, Poorva, your dedication to your work as a woman in computer science fills me with the hope that the companies and graduate programs that come across your applications allow you the opportunity to travel and settle yourself outside of New Jersey because I know that’s what you want.
So, while I wish I could grab each of you by the ankle and keep you with me in New Brunswick, I know that will do none of us any good except, of course, cater to my selfish need to hold onto the friendships in which I’ve made a home here at Rutgers. I’d say it took a long time for me to get here; for us to get here. As four introverted and quite different individuals, we disproved the unlikely odds of us opening up to one another and becoming the friends we are today.
When I first began college, my biggest problem was this: I could be in a room full of people and yet feel so alone. It was a battle I had to confront every day in high school and one I certainly had a difficult time confronting even as a college student. Actually, especially as a college student. Crowded busses, jampacked lecture halls, and busying leadership activities all made the battle that much more challenging. They made me feel distant from the people around me as existential crises overwhelmed my mind and dragged me deeper and deeper inward, trapping me in a paranoid and anxious body.
My first semester at Rutgers was, for lack of a classier term, hell for me. Adjusting to college life was one problem; recognizing my loneliness and inability to find genuine relationships was another. This isn’t to blame anyone, not even myself (which I can only acknowledge now in hindsight). Rather, I learned that while many articles I’ve read told me that there are more extroverts in this world than introverts, my life experiences have to disagree. I feel like we live in a world that has so systematically programmed us to be private and individualized, so much so that we often find it difficult to keep up with our own selves. It’s a very isolating and distancing society we live in, one in which staying true to even our own identities has become the most difficult task.
So, no wonder I felt lonely. Nobody, it seemed, was opening up about the deep thoughts that slosh around in their brains. Instead, everyone was doing as they were accustomed: doing the bare minimum to reach out to others so as to fill lonely gaps in their lives, but not doing enough to feel completely whole and in tune with these new friends. It was a struggle, and it wasn’t until this year, living so closely to you three that I learned it is possible for me to sit in a room alone without feeling lonely.
I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me; from washing my dishes to letting me borrow your clothes to listening to me rant about my thesis, from being vulnerable to being gossip girls to calling each other out on each other’s bull shit, from respecting each other’s spaces to having absolutely no sense of a personal bubble to simply being there for each other at the end of the day. While I’m so scared of the changes that will come as we enter new chapters in our lives, I can be sure of one thing. I’m confident that we introverts–who’ve learned to show each other how much we love and appreciate one another by simply being–will have absolutely no problem knowing that we’ll have each other in our hearts and minds no matter the time or distance between us.
The prospect of you three starting off your lives as “adults” in the “real world” gets me so thrilled, as you probably know from how much I’ve been unable to contain it. I feel like a mother who’s watching her children leave the nest, but a more accurate comparison would be that I feel like a younger sibling watching her older sisters leave the nest. You’ve become my family, my sisters, ones that I admire and look up to. Age is exactly but a number, and so though we are all more or less of the same age, you’ll always be the strong women I can look up to for advice, for condolences, for new ways to look at this world. You’ll always be the people who teach me about myself, who share with me stories of your travels, and who I can trust to never abandon me no matter where it is you are. I’m so thankful that our relationship isn’t physically bound or rooted to this apartment thanks to the home we’ve built, this safe space in which we’ve dedicated our friendships.
So, as I sit here at 3:59 AM procrastinating and unwilling to write my English essay, I am listening to the silence in our apartment. The future will simply feel like this: the three of you sound asleep in your own bedrooms, sleeping and ready for a new day according to your own busy schedules. Despite the path you’ll be taking tomorrow, not every second of the day spent with me, our individual lives have been intertwined and threaded together at this junction in college, a memory I can always look back to and call home.
Your Introverted Apartment Mate