My room at home was too small for me. I barely had room for all the little knickknacks I'd collected over the years. There were so many things I had to pack away in boxes and store in closets all over the house. Oftentimes I didn't quite remember exactly where everything was.
There were all the notes my girlfriends and I passed throughout junior high, along with all the goofy poems my first boyfriend paid his friends to write and passed along to me as his originals. I also had a separate box for rose petals collected from past birthdays, Valentine's Days, anniversaries, and proms. I kept all my pictures in neatly organized albums on the bottom shelf of my bookcase. I had jewelry that I never wore but I thought I might someday need stashed away all over my room. I also saved birthday and Christmas cards, leaves that had fallen from the trees the previous fall, and medals I won for participating in piano recitals. On another shelf of my bookcase I even had a brick I found on the playground at my elementary school.
I'm not exactly sure why I saved everything, but I have some sort of idea. I never wanted to forget the great times I'd had growing up. I always feared I'd become one of those adults who couldn't relate to children because they simply couldn't remember having been children themselves. I wanted to remember the flowers my brother gave me when no other boy would. I wanted to someday look back at pictures of my first trip to Panama City. For some strange reason, I wanted to remember the day my playmates and I found that broken brick on the playground and thought our school was being broken into.
So I kept my life stored away in my bedroom, tucked neatly into boxes, stacked high up in my closet, on display on my bookcases, stashed discreetly away in my underwear drawer in hopes I'd never forget anything. I loved my room because it was all about me. I didn't have to share it with anyone else. My memories didn't have to mingle with a sibling's or roommate's. My room at home was just that … my room, full of my things.
Now that I'm away from home, enrolled in college, and sharing ten cubic feet with another girl, my old bedroom doesn't seem so small. I try my hardest to make my half of the room personal to me, but in a space so small, that proves almost impossible. Occasionally her books will find their way to my half of the desk, or her shoes will be near my closet. Sometimes crumbs from the crackers she's eating litter my half of the carpet, and every so often, her hair brush begins to hang around with mine.
I don't have room for all the little memories I cherish. I only brought a handful of pictures from home, left behind all my yearbooks, as well as my dried flowers and "who loves who" notes. Perhaps the worst part about the whole ordeal is that I don't have room to start any new collections. The threat is there that I won't have anything to remind me of my college years. That's a really scary thought for me. This place where I sleep and study isn't my room. It's just a room.
404 South Carrick Hall is just a place to sleep, study, and watch my roommate watch TV. It's filled with textbooks, CD-ROMs, and dishes … things that aren't supposed to be in a bedroom. There's only room for one stuffed animal and three posters which have a hard time staying on brico-block walls. I hate the fact that there's a microwave and refrigerator in the room where I sleep, and I hate that I'm responsible for filling them.
Maybe even worse than my new room's lack of personality is the lack of privacy it offers. Occasionally, and especially during home-coming, my roommate comes in after I've gone to sleep. She doesn't mean to wake me up, but when she starts her nightly contact-removal ritual, I can't help but hear what seems like thousands of different cleaning solution bottles bumping around the sink. I've been known to bother her too. During the day when I'm trying to study, my typing interferes with her enjoyment of "The Loveboat," "Days of Our Lives," and "Another World."
My roommate is not the only one who deprives me of privacy and makes 404 a room that is not really my own. The girls next door to me see me as a back-up grammar check when their computers don't catch every mistake. I can't lock them out because it's not my room to lock. I can't say, "Go away," because they've gotten to be really good friends and I can't be rude to people I care about.
The lack of privacy thing really bothers me. Not only do I live in a room that acts as a bedroom, study, kitchen, living room, and bathroom, I don't even get to be miserable in it by myself. Sometimes misery does not love company. Rather, it is created by company. If I can't decorate my room to my liking, I should at least be able to suffer in it alone. But dormitories are not for being alone – I've been told – they're about learning to get along with others. (Maybe I'll see the positive results of this nightmare when I'm giving advice to my own children when they begin college, but for the moment, I'm completely oblivious to them.)
There is some good news, however. Though she annoys me to no end, sometimes my roommate is just the person I want to see. I didn't get to know her habits so well without her taking in a few of mine. She oftentimes knows what I'm going to say even before I do, and most of the time she knows exactly when not to say anything to me at all. She's friend as well as foe, and I'd probably miss her if she left. The same sentiments apply to my neighbors. It's really quite flattering that they, even if somewhat mistakenly, consider me some sort of grammar goddess.
And perhaps most important is the next thought. While I don't live in a room that's completely mine anymore, and probably won't ever again, I do find comfort in the knowledge that somewhere there's a pink, green, and white bedroom with a brick on the bookshelf, a diary in the underwear drawer, and an air of privacy that belongs strictly to me. It may not be my room as often as I'd like, but it will wait for me, just like I sit and wait for it.