“No matter how you get there or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home.”
The Office, Series Finale
We’re misty-eyed as the screen goes black, familiar music and text signaling the end of the episode. The last episode. Emily and I started watching The Office together three years ago, when we first moved to Germany, a twenty-minute diversion at the end of long days of teaching and small group leading. Since then, there have been other shows, but the recent availability of the last three seasons brought back our habit of watching it together. It’s been a busy fall–as Emily is now the Art Department Chair and I’ve been teaching five classes and preparing to get married–so we just reached the end. Five days before I move out of this apartment, and move on from roommate life.
I started watching The Office in 2005, in it’s second season, with other roommates, Beebe and Casie. At the time, I was a senior at Seattle Pacific University, living in a house with five other women. It was our first life outside of the dorms. The first time cooking meals for ourselves. The first time buying a Christmas tree. The first time cleaning all the rooms in the house, instead of just our own.
It was a big, clean house, whose working appliances and genial landlords we’d look back on fondly from subsequent homes. From our nursing student who got up at 5:00 AM to the last girl asleep, usually around 2:00 or 3:00 AM, we were away for 21 hours of the day. We crafted routines, rotating chores to be done weekly, house meetings and dinners that punctuated our scattered lives. Despite the busyness of that year–a year that for me included student teaching and a quarter abroad in the British Isles–I look back on that first house as an important one, a happy one.
When I get married at the end of this month, it will be eleven and a half years since moving out of my parents’ house at the end of high school. Apart from a few summers back with my parents, for all of that time I’ve lived with roommates, in houses or apartments, tiny rooms at Tauernhof or a log cabin at Miracle Ranch Camp. These have been years of growth and change, taking me from adolescence to adulthood, student to teacher. And at every stage, through every transition, there have been several people with whom I’ve shared life–a life that includes a kitchen and a bathroom, and all associated cleaning.
I could fill the page with memories, both tense and marvelous, memories that would likely amuse only the few that were present for that night, that day, at that house. Another day, perhaps. For now, tonight, I’m content to reflect that my roommates–there have been twelve, and another five for the summer–have been a gift. It’s not a promise, leaving home, that you’ll get to live with some of your best friends for a decade, but that has been this decade.
As I leave this attic apartment with Emily and Ellen, eagerly anticipating the next adventure of marriage that awaits in just over two weeks, I’m thankful for these years, and most of all these women. They’ve taught me how to cook–vegan, organic, gluten-free and German–and how to rest. They’ve taught me to pray, to listen, to embrace and resolve conflict, to laugh and love and forgive.
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them,” mused a character on The Office, upon seeing old friends at the job he’d left behind. And while I understand the sentiment, I can’t relate. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed every moment of living in community–like any family, living with roommates presents the unique challenges of clashing opinions and bewildering reactions–but each of these places has been beautiful in its own way, rich in relationship and experience.
I supposed I could have spent the last decade or so living alone, creating, decorating and managing my own little apartment world. Some days I was tempted. In the end, though, I’m more grateful for the lessons learned in these shared lives, and for the friends who gather around a fire with me, a few weeks before my wedding, with celebration of all we’ve shared and prayers for the future ahead.