The Failed GrownUp’s Guide to Not Being a Complete And Total Ass Waffle of a Roommate

Well, here in my little University town, it is officially move in day for the residence students. That means that not only is campus flooded with new students and their folks, but the 7-11 I go to every freakin Sunday for my junk food meal of chicken wings and a corn dog is going to be beyond packed and utterly destroyed. That also means that Casa del Failure is packed again.

Once again it’s me, your favourite failure, with my precious Bowser Kitten and the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend taking care of the place. I do most of the general cleaning int he common areas and small repairs; AAB does all the yard work, the really dirty work, and scrubs out rooms when people move out; and Bowser Kitten is in charge of pest control. We have our quirky and quite strange roommate A, who failed to learn how a slow cooker works in his 46 years on this planet (at least I think he’s from this planet), on the main floor with us. In the basement is our young student C, who Bowser absolutely adores right now, taking up the most recently vacated room. And our newest addition is a recent masters graduate we’ll call J, whose girlfriend was my next-door neighbour and babysitting charge more than 15 years ago in a whole other city.

Yes, once again I am living in a house full of dudes. This is a two ovary household still.

So far, things don’t seem too bad. The only real problem we had was with the people moving OUT of rooms. Over the years that I’ve been here, our basement has become quite the collection of randomness that people seem to think I either want or have a burning desire to get rid of for them. Seriously, our little storage area in the basement (which is really just a wide open area when you first come down the stairs with no organizational structure at all) is beyond filed, with things spilling out into the basement common area (where we keep the really really comfy couch).

 

Yes, that is a random tire, a whole bunch of styrofoam, an old broken fan, and a box of old used beer pitchers.  Seriously, what the hell do people think I’m going to do with this crap? It’s not like they left it behind and said, “I don’t have access to a truck to haul this off to the dump. Can I leave it here so you can take it the next time you go?”. They just left it behind in a big pile down there. And that’s not all that’s been left behind over the years, either.

 

That right there is most of a Christmas tree, a treadmill, a box of Christmas lights (which I am actually keeping and putting up in the living room because the lighting sucks in there), and a box of Christmas ornaments. A few of those ornaments were made for the guy who left them here by his freakin son!  So now not only do I have to find a way to get all of this crap to the dump, I have to haul a fucking treadmill up the ridiculously awkward basement stairs!

It gets worse too, Sunshine. When AAB moved in here, the landlord cut a deal with him and paid him to clean out the rooms and bathroom in the basement. Why? Because the last tenant who lived down there (who left the tires, a box of wires and chords, and a few old alarm clocks) was a huge pig. It looked like he had tried to sweep before leaving, but just left piles of dirt and debris all over the bedroom floor. There were old McDonald’s bags from months before, random school papers everywhere, and the bathroom hadn’t been cleaned once in the year he was living down there. AAB spent days down there hauling up garbage, scrubbing layers of mold off the bathroom shower, and basically sanitizing the entire basement.

Sad thing is, this isn’t the first or last time this has happened.  The most recent dude to leave here left behind the tree, Christmas things, random end tables everywhere (who the hell has so many tables for no reason? I mean besides me now), and just garbage everywhere. And of course, no one can forget the guy who lived in my room before me who didn’t vacuum for more than a year. Even after vacuuming the carpet multiple times, I wound up having an allergic reaction to something that had been ground in there and was covered in hives for 94 days.

Yes, 94 fucking days of hives. In the middle of summer, when sweat made the hives worse.

Living in a house you don’t own doesn’t give you free reign to trash the place or disrespect the owners (or your roommates). There are so many simple, little things that you can do to avoid pissing off everyone and someday ending up on some random person’s blog as their Roommate From Hell. So, here for your reading pleasure, I give you…….

The Failed GrownUp’s Guide to Not Being a Complete And Total Ass Waffle of a Roommate

#1: Clean Up Your Fucking Messes

This doesn’t just mean “scrape the berries off the ceiling after you try to make a smoothie in a blender with no lid and cause a giant purple delicious explosion in the kitchen”. Did you use the kitchen counter? Then grab a rag, or a clean sponge, or one of those disinfectant wipes, and wipe the fucking thing down. Use dishes? Fucking wash them!

It’s not rocket surgery here, but it’s the one thing I hear the most complaints about from people I know who are living with roommates. There’s nothing worse than coming home at the end of a long day, wanting nothing more than to throw a bunch of shit into a pot on the stove and make random deliciousness, and finding out that every fucking pot in the damn house is dirty and sitting in the sink. What makes it even worse is when you realize you haven’t touched the pots in days, they were clean right after you used them, and it’s the same fucking roommate using up everything all the time and just leaving it for you to clean.

This isn’t just in the kitchen, either. I could’ve avoided 94 fucking days of hives if someone had just picked up a vacuum every now and then and ran it across the carpet. It’s not a huge room, it only takes a few minutes. Hell, I got a shitty little handheld vacuum with a hose attachment to spot vacuum when I need it in here!

Just generally, clean up after yourself. You know all the shit your parents always bitched at you for, like picking up your socks and not leaving wet towels on the floor? I mean that shit. Pick up things you drop on the floor. If you take stuff into a common area, unless there’s a specific place you can put it, take it with you when you leave. I’m fucking horrible for this, always have been. I’ll take a pile of books, papers, and pens and just leave it somewhere when I leave the room. It’s something I consciously try to avoid doing, though, because I don’t want to be an asshole.

#2: Unless You’re Actually Trying to Wake the Dead, Pipe the Fuck Down

The student life is fucking weird, and you keep the most bizarre hours sometimes. I can remember staying up for like 36 hours sorting through research once, taking a nap at like 10 am and then waking up at 2 pm to start writing for the next 5 hours. Between the classes, the class work, working a job or two, volunteering, clubs and societies, parties, and some semblance of a social life, you find yourself doing strange things like going to 7-11 at 3:30 am for coffee and a RockStar, and then going back again at 3:30 pm for the same thing. There is no one set schedule that all, or even most, students live on. That’s why it’s so damn important to pipe the fuck down.

If you have roommates, unless you’re sitting in the same room together right this very second, you don’t know if they’re sleeping. Or, at the very least, trying to sleep. I once had a roommate who had this big old tv in her room, which was right next to mine. She didn’t care if I worked late the night before, or was up all night writing papers. By 10 am her TV was on and cranked as loud as it would go. I could go downstairs to the living room, turn on the tv down there, and STILL hear her TV. I couldn’t sleep during the day in my own room, let alone take a quick nap unless I had hit the point of total exhaustion where I could sleep through anything.

I admit that I’ve been the loud and annoying roommate at times. Sometimes, if I know everyone is awake, I love to blast some tunes in the shower and sing along. And just so you know, the Bowser Kitten has a better singing voice than I do, and he’s a fucking cat. Still, I now try to do that only when I know everyone is awake and most (if not all) of them are out of the house.

You generally don’t know when someone is sleeping, or napping, or trying to concentrate. I’m not saying you have to tiptoe around the house as quiet as a fucking mime. Let’s be honest here, mime’s are fucking creepy and I would never tell you to act like one! Just be a little considerate. Keep your shows and music at a somewhat reasonable volume.

Why am I sounding more and more like my mother while I write this?

#3: Not Everyone Is Your New Bestie

I’m a pretty solitary person usually. I practice voluntary hermit-ism. If it wasn’t for AAB, I would only leave my room to go to work and take a shit. I’m not totally anti-social or anything. I mean, if I run into a roommate while we’re both in the kitchen or something, I’ll chit chat. I’ve had roommates before who I was friends with, and we would sit around at night and watch tv together. I’m not living here to make friends, though.

All those TV shows where random people live in close proximity to each other and instantly become inseparable best friends for life are a lie. A bold-faced, spit in your eye, slap you across the face, help you move into a new apartment while they fuck your girlfriend in the closet at your old place, LIE!  Living under the same roof does not instantly make you best friends.

My one roommate “A” is constantly trying to strike up a conversation with me. If I’m chilling in the kitchen, I’ll chit chat for a bit while I cook. That’s fine with me. But just a few minutes ago I was cleaning the basement out. I was picking up mattresses and throwing them into a pile, moving the junk people have left behind, and “A” came downstairs. So there I am, hoisting a mattress up over my head while trying to walk around piles of junk, and he just starts rambling on to me about something-or-other. Next thing I know, he’s trying to push mattresses around back into the spaces I was pulling them out of! While I’m pulling stuff out of a tight spot, he’s pushing against and just rambling on about random bullshit.

I know, he’s lonely. He’s always trying to talk to anyone within earshot around here. I’ve taken to hiding when I hear his door open sometimes. It’s just annoying. Like, I just wanted to throw some old mattresses around and check all the Christmas lights that were down there in total peace. It’s my procrastination from writing. I clear my mind, blow off some steam, and lift heavy things over my head for a bit. I didn’t need him undoing my work while rambling my fucking ear off.

Don’t think that everyone in your house will want to sit around and let you talk their ear off. I have had roommates that I grew to be good friends with, some that I actively hate, but most of them were just sorta here. We didn’t chat, or hang out, or go out anywhere together. Sure, we talked when we were in the same room. I can tell you a few things I learned about each of them, and we had some laughs. Hell, I had a roommate I never spoke to outside of our kitchen who I bonded with over a few very large bottles of red wine while we tried to learn about wine tasting in an effort to sound smart at networking events (we failed massively and wound up very hungover instead). He’s moved out since then, and we don’t keep in touch. It’s not a big deal, we’re just not friends.

When you’re renting with random people or people you don’t know very well, don’t try and force the friendship. You might wind up friends with some of them, you might not. It’s no big deal, you don’t have to be everyone’s friend.

And NEVER, under any circumstances, try to force a new roommate into a “fun-filled” night in with you and all your favourite things. A friend had a new roommate try this, and said roommate pitched a fit when my lactose-intolerant vegetarian friend wouldn’t sit around eating burgers and drinking milkshakes for hours during one of the busiest weeks before exams.

#4: Is That Yours? Then Why The Fuck Are You Using It?

Years ago I had to walk home in the pouring rain, and the only thing that kept me going was the thought of grabbing my biggest pot and making ALL the pasta for me and a friend. Like, we were walking in the freezing cold, rain soaking through our clothes, umbrella ripped to shreds from the wind, and all we could talk about was smothering pasta in butter and sopping up the butter with fresh hot bread. Pretty sure the rain was washing away massive amounts of drool. We finally get to my place, change out of our wet clothes, head to the kitchen to start cooking……. and all my pots are gone. I had four fucking pots, and they were ALL gone! A few minutes of snooping and we found all four of them, full of my roommate’s food, used up in the fridge.

This wasn’t the first time, or the last time, this particular roommate took my cookware. I’d come home from class and my stuff would just be gone. When I announced I was moving out, he actually had the nerve to try and hide some of my stuff from me! In the end, I did lose a few things in the move because of him. He grabbed stupid random shit (a toaster, a fan, frying pan, three plates and a bowl from a 4-person place setting) and locked it in his room for the week while he was out of town.  I couldn’t get them before I left.

If you’re my roommate and you ask me if you can borrow something, 99% of the time I’ll let you. I can’t help it, I’m Canadian to a fault and way too fucking nice to say ‘no’ to someone in need. All you have to do is ask. And I know a shit tonne of people who are the same way.

If you’re the one who needs to borrow something, don’t just reach for it unless you know you can use it. Don’t assume that just because your roommate doesn’t hoard their things in their bedroom, they’re fair game for everyone to use.  This kinda brings us to my last point for the day……

#5: Treat Everyone’s Shit As If It Was Your Shit

An old roommate had a bunch of roommates over the years in his house. Most of them were pretty chill, easy enough to live with. One turned out to be a disrespectful piece of shit who cost my friend and his landlord money over the time of this guy’s lease. Carpets had to be replaced because he never vacuumed them or cleaned up spills. He would burn cookware and just throw it back into the cupboard. He’d borrow a jacket or a sweater and just leave it somewhere random. He peeled paint off the walls, left food to rot on the counters, and even put holes in one of the walls. Nice enough guy, just a fucking nightmare to live with.

You’re paying money to live in someone else’s house. Don’t treat it like you’re Motley Cru and it’s a hotel room in 1986. It’s someone’s fucking property, their home. How would you feel if this was your place and someone treated it that way? Nevermind the anger from being disrespected, you’d probably be fucking pissed off about the money you’ve got to shell out for repairs!

If you borrow something from someone, treat it like it’s your own. Take care of it, wash it, give it back in one piece, and if something does happen to it then you damn well better replace it. Don’t treat your place and your roommate’s stuff like this is your personal playground.

 

All in all, if you want to not follow any of these tips, just remember one thing: someday you might need a reference. Most of the apartments in this area require AT LEAST one former landlord as a reference and more and more are asking for references from former roommates. So if you’re a giant dickwad to your roommates, lose and destroy their things, destroy the room you’re renting, and are just a horrible fucking human in general when it comes to renting, what are the chances anyone would want to give you a good reference?

Well Sunshine, the sun aint’ shining anymore today. I’m going to grab my sandwich and a glass of whiskey, throw on the comfy pants, and throw on a horror movie or three. Hope any of you moving for the start of the school year made it through the move safely, and without losing your shit (literally and figuratively).

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Roommates from Hell: Updates from This Semester

Well it’s the end of the semester, which means the students are all on the move. It’s been a wild semester, with the five of us sharing the house. Just to re-cap some of the strangest drama and experiences from the last few months:

  • I walked into the kitchen multiple times to find AC sitting on the floor with a giant knife that looked more like a small machette, chopping ridiculously large amounts of cabbage.
  • UG used a frying pan! We finally got him to stop just reheating leftovers in the fridge, and he started making his own food to go with the giant pots of rice he was always burning on the stove. Unfortunately, he never cleaned the damn frying pan, instead letting it sit there with leftover fat and oil in it for days at a time. I watched him try to clean it the other day: he put it under running (cold) water, pushed old food bits out with his fingers, and then put it back on the stove.
  • I randonly came home a few times to find my livingroom packed full of people, all guests of DG. I never really minded that he always had people coming over, but our neighbour (who is like the badass granny everyone needs in their life) got pretty damn pissed. His friends were throwing all their food wrappers and garbage on her lawn. She damn near charged into the house once to scream at all the roommates.
  • We finally got a second fridge!
  • The second fridge broke. No one bothered to clear out their rotting food from it. Jeff had to put on his Army-issued gas mask in order to clean it out without puking. After that, I went from getting half a shelf in the fridge (plus sharing the top shelf for large items, the door for all the condiments, and the vegetable crisper) to getting one third of a shelf if I was lucky, and barely enough room on the top shelf to put a carton of milk and bottle of wine.
  • Jeff and I got through out break-up ok. He’s dating a really sweet young girl who goes to the university here. She’s messaged me on Facebook a bunch of times, and we talk whenever she’s over (we actually have a lot of common interests). And I found the most amazingly wonderful man I could ever hope to meet, who I am ridiculously crazy about in a way I’ve never felt about anyone else before.
  • No one besides me mopped. Ever.
  • No one but me vacuumed the common areas. Ever.
  • No one but me cleaned the bathrooms. Ever.
  • No one but me cleaned the laundry room. Ever.
  • My new amazing boyfriend helped me clean up our kitchen quite a bit, since no one else ever helped. He was the only person to do any real deep cleaning around here besides me. And he doesn’t even live here.

So it’s been an interesting semester here. AC finished her in-class work last week, and went home to be with her husband and son while she finished her final papers. She’s set to come back here in the fall though, and left her treadmill behind to claim her space.

UG just left this house for the last time a few minutes ago. He came to my room to say goodbye (and to see the cat, of course). He had a friend helping him move (a friend who would not stop singing loudly all afternoon while I tried to work), and somehow wound up with multiple bags of garbage needing to be taken out. I think that, of all the randoms we’ve had come through this house in the years I’ve been here, he’s been my favourite. He was mostly respectful, kept to himself, and never bothered me. True, he never did clean anything, and he left boogers on the shower walls. But he was a hell of a lot better than some of the trash I’ve seen come through here.

DG is leaving here by the end of this month. He’s already packed up his BBQ and moved it to a friend’s place.He has so much stuff, though, it’s been spilling out into the common areas since the day he moved in. I have no clue how he’s going to pack it all and move it out of here!

And then there’s Jeff. He’s agreed to become the house manager for a friend who had to move away for work, but didn’t want to sell his income property. So, at the end of this month, he’s moving out too. We made a run to the liquor store to pick up some boxes (I work there, so I know where all the best ones are hidden for moving), and he’s going to start packing up his stuff. Soon. He swears it. Problem is, between all his clothes, his books, his army gear, and the random stuff he’s collected over the years living here…….. well, he has a lot of freakin stuff!  It’s going to take some supreme organizational skills to pull this off…….. thankfully, he still has me here.

Yeppers Sunshine, it looks like I’m not going anywhere just yet. They’ve cut my hours quite a bit at work the last few months, so I’ve eaten through most of my savings just to keep a roof over my head (and those savings were meant for 1st and last on a new roof over my head). I’m trying to find a second job, and have had no luck there. So once again, everyone is moving on with their lives but me. While everyone moves forward, I’m stuck in limbo for god knows how long.  And it’s really starting to get to me.

I think the worst part of all this is, Jeff has been managing this house for years. The cable and internet are in his name, he’s always handled the lawn maintenance (I’m allergic to freshly cut grass and break out in hives), and he’s been in charge of getting new stuff when things break (like right now, we have to get new recycling bins). There are 8 days left in this month, and I have no clue what is happening with any of that.  I don’t know if I have to get internet for the entire house, or if I’m responsible for going out and buying things like recycling bins and garbage cans for the house. Luckily, my amazingly awesome boyfriend has offered to come over and cut the lawn for me. But the rest is just…… in limbo.

I hope none of you are in a state of limbo right now, Sunshine. If you are, drop me a line or leave a comment. We can be miserable together.

Roommates from Hell: The People Upstairs

When I first moved into my dirty old apartment, we didn’t have the two students living above us. For a short time, while the building manager was ill, a property management company came in and helped fill the vacant apartments. This company is well known in this city for not properly vetting their clients, and renting to some pretty shady characters. So, the apartment above mine was rented out by them.

At first, the people there seemed nice, from what I was told. It was supposedly a young mother with her baby son, and her boyfriend would be staying there on and off. They seemed nice enough, and the apartment was rented out to them.

Turns out, that wasn’t who would be living there, really. Yes, she had a baby son living with her, but she also had a daughter there too. And her boyfriend moved in full time. And so did his brother. And their two friends. And two cats and a few Dobermans. Then the Rottweiler. Did I mention these small, two bedroom apartments had a “no pets” clause in the lease?

People started moving in slowly. When the property manager would stop by, the girl would say that her friend was helping her with her kids that day, or that there were so many guys there because they were going to have a guys night and play poker.

What they were really all doing there was growing marijuana.

It turns out, they were growing, drying, and then selling marijuana from the apartment. They also were NOT cleaning, or paying bills, or taking care of the kids living there.

When I went to first look at the apartment, before we rented, the building manager told us that the tenants upstairs were being evicted and would be out before we moved in.

Well that didn’t happen.

They were served with an eviction notice, and ignored it. They had their power shut off, which inadvertently shut down the power to my apartment as well. Didn’t bother them, they brought in noisy, stinky generators. They got served with ANOTHER eviction notice, and ignored it. Finally, the building manager said that he was going to get the police involved, which apparently scared the people with the illegal grow-op in their apartment. They started making arrangements to move.

Until then, they raised hell.

We couldn’t sleep at night because they would be up all night, stomping and screaming and yelling. We still had no power, because when the power company came around to turn it on, they scared them away. The stink from their apartment was starting to waft through the hallways and down the staircases. They started throwing things out their apartment windows, without taking out the screens first: they just ripped them open.

One day, the threw their cats out the second floor windows. One landed and ran away. The other hobbled around, and you could see that it was sick. Some mechanics from the shop across the street took it in, and had a veterinarian friend of their come take a look at it. That vet said he had never seen a more abused, diseased cat before. Its bones had been broken, it was sick with almost a dozen different things, and its eyes were so infected that they crusted shut. They put the poor thing in a shoe box to make it comfortable, and it passed away a few hours later.

Once the poor cat was gone, a group of very large, very angry mechanics showed up on the doorstep upstairs, looking for whomever had hurt that poor thing. I don’t know what was said, but those people moved out a few days later.

The building manager and two of the tenants who had been in the building more than 25 years decided to do a walk-through of the apartment together, to see the damage. I don’t think they were quite expecting what they saw.

The carpeting in the bedrooms was ripped up, and they had let their dogs poop under it. There were garbage bags full of old diapers, rotten food, and cat litter all over the apartment. They had stopped using the toilet once they were told the police would be called on them, and started peeing on the floor, covering the puddles up with the kids’ clothes. In some areas, they had even punched holes in the walls and had shoved garbage in there.

The building manager said it would take at least a week to clean, and that the chemical smell would be pretty bad. Also, we wouldn’t be getting our power turned on until this was cleaned up, because they had to do both apartments at once for some reason, and there was feces shoved in the electrical outlets. Luckily, summer exams had just ended and my parents lived just across town. The roommate and I both packed our bags and bunked out in my old bedroom at my parents’ house.

In the end, they had to replace a few walls, rip out all the carpeting, and use industrial strength cleaners to get that apartment clean again. One of the other tenants who was helping cut his hand while cleaning up the cat litter, and his hand got so infected he wound up in the hospital for almost a week, getting his hand drained and his body pumped full of antibiotics. The doctors had never seen an infection that bad from touching cat poop, and said that the cat that came from as too sick to exist.

That was quite the experience, having to deal with all that. And that is why you check out the neighbours before you move into a new place, sunshine!

Make Yourself Memorable

As I’ve said before, I work in customer service at a very popular store near the university campus. I have friends in the area come through my line all the time. We’ll chat a bit, catch up, maybe make plans with each other. Other times, it’s people I haven’t seen in quite a while. Sure, we have each other on Facebook and have liked each other’s statuses from time to time, but we haven’t actually talked in ages.

A few weeks back, a young man came into the store. It took me a second to recognize him before I remembered him from his old fraternity. Back in school, we used to hang out at the DJ table at his frat parties, get goofy on the dance floor, and keep an eye on the other party-goers. We had what I thought were many a good talk at charity events, and would see each other regularly at greek events on campus. He wasn’t a very close friend, but a good enough acquaintance that I was happy to see him that day. When I walked over to say hi, he didn’t remember me. I brought up a few events we had worked at together, parties we were both at, a few memorable times we had……. and still, nothing. It wasn’t until I mentioned a certain friend that he had that light bulb moment. “Of course, you’re Becky’s friend! I remember Becky? How is she?”

Sadly, this happens a lot. I spent the fist part of my university career living with my best friend. We did everything together. When we weren’t in class, we were usually together. Having a lot of the same friends, this was pretty easy. We already went to the same parties, the same events, and the same bars. Living together AND being BFFs, it just made sense to just go to these things together.

After I moved out, not much changed. Sure, we weren’t sleeping under the same roof, but we were still together all the time. We joined some of the same clubs, sat on the same committees, even took a few classes together. Soon, people saw us as a pair, and our roles in this pair became clear: I was the Garth to her Wayne. She was the one everyone knew, everyone remembered, everyone talked to. I was just sort of…… there. Sure, I had a good time, and made a few good friends. But to everyone else, I was just sort of Becky’s shadow. Even when I ventured out without her, people asked me where she was.

Now, all these years later, this is coming back to haunt me. It turns out, I don’t have an identity of my own. I’m not anything to anyone. I’m nothing memorable. I’m just….. there. And you know what? It really, really sucks. People I used to know just two years ago look right through me, and only remember me once I mention Becky. And it’s not just the first time they run into me that this happens. The guy who came into my store? It turns out he lives across the street from me, and sees me pretty much every day from his study window. He still had no clue who I am, though.

I’m really not sure what kind of advice I can offer to make sure this doesn’t happen to you. I mean, obviously I more than failed at being someone who people remember. If anyone out there has any advice on how NOT to let this happen, please tell me! Because this really sucks. It hurts to realize that no one wants to remember you. It hurts knowing that you are just an afterthought when a certain someone else isn’t right there with you. And it hurts knowing that what you thought were great memories with great people were really just meh-times for them, not worthy of ever remembering again.

The Fabled ‘Tale of the Corn’, or “How I Became Allergic to my Own Damn Kitchen”.

I think sometimes when I tell this story, people don’t believe me unless they knew this particular roommate. The state of her kitchen became a legend among frat boys in our area. It was a punishment to be forced to come over to her place and clean her kitchen for her. More than one frat pledge hurled and dry-heaved his way his way through her dishes, just to come across forgotten pots and pans from what looked to be Christmas dinner, 1976. There are some who cannot remember a time when her kitchen wasn’t covered in dishes. I am not one of those people, though. I can remember scrubbing our kitchen when we lived together, having an empty sink and a drawer full of squeaky clean cutlery. In my mind, the kitchen was just a minor problem that we could handle together.

Until the corn pot.

She had never been one to do dishes in the first place. For many years, she had a deal with her fiance where he would do dishes if she would do all their laundry. When he left, she stepped up from time to time, cleaning up after herself. This would usually only be after at least a week of dishes piling up in the sink, crusted food rotting on their pretty floral pattern. I bought myself a set of blue plastic dishes, trying to make sure I always had something to throw my pizza on while I watched tv. Over time, even those dishes somehow wound up in her growing sink mound.

Usually, I would get sick of the mess, throw a fit, and the two of us would clean it up together. If I wasn’t around, though, this didn’t get done. I could scrub the kitchen down completely on a Friday afternoon, go to my parents’ place for the weekend, and come home to a pile of dishes I would later have to help clean.

And that is how the corn incident started.

On a Thursday night, she decided to make herself a big enough meal to have leftovers for a day or two, while I decided to go stay with my parents’ and help them move furniture. Before leaving, I hugged her cats goodbye and watched her browning meat at the stove. I didn’t come home until Monday afternoon.

It seems that part of her dinner Thursday night was a rather large pot of frozen corn. I know this because on Monday night, it was still sitting half-full on the stove. The butter in it had hardened and the pot’s contents were now one giant yellow rock. I asked her if she would be getting rid of that soon, and she said she was just about to.

On Wednesday night, I tried to find a clean plate for my pizza. While moving dirty dishes away from the cupboards, I found the corn pot. It was still full, and starting to look a little fuzzy. I mentioned to her that her food was starting to grown life forms, and she laughed it off.

By Friday night, I was feeling a little off while trying to make dinner. My eyes were burning, my throat felt dry, and I was getting dizzy at the stove. I moved things aside to get to the window, and found the pot. The corn was starting resemble a small cat now, black and fuzzy. The mould on it was growing its own film of mould.

Oh, did I mention that I’m allergic to mould?

The roommate swore again and again that she would take care of it. Yet day after day, that mouldy sat on the stove. I began to have nightmares about what was going on in that pot. Were there tiny little organisms in there, slowly evolving? Were they building tiny little roads and houses? Would they stage an uprising and come to kill me in my sleep?

By the following weekend, I had had enough.  The pot was still sitting there, less corn than fuzzy cat-like blob of fuzz. I stormed into the kitchen, grabbed the pot by the handles, and decided right then and there that I was going to get rid of whatever was living in there.

And that’s when it attacked.

A black mushroom cloud of spores exploded from the pot, enveloping my entire head. I gagged and wheezed, throwing the pot back on the stove and running for the nearest bathroom. Black fuzzy chunks flowed trough my vomit, as tears tried to wash the black from my eyes. And the roommate? She sat in the living-room, watching TV and occasionally calling out, “are you alright?”

For days after, I was a mess. My eyes both watered and were painfully dry. I wheezed after walking the 9 feet to the bathroom from my bedroom. I was cranky and tired, but couldn’t fall asleep with all the itching and coughing. And that damn pot still sat there.

To be safe, I stayed out of the kitchen. When the pot exploded, it essentially made me allergic to the entire damn room. The room where my food was, where I could eat up leftover pizza, where the glasses for my beer were. Allergic! For days, I pleaded with the roommate to clean out the pot. She had midterms, and papers, and studying, and TV, and god knows what else keeping her from that kitchen, though. Unable to even enter the room, I was forced to subside on pizza and McDonald’s; not a huge change from before, but still a huge annoyance.

Finally after close to three weeks of me asking, she cleaned it. While I was on campus, she threw away the growing fuzz-ball and scrubbed out that pot. She scrubbed down the dirty dishes that had been accumulating, wiped down the counters, and even cleaned the stove-top.  For a whole 17 hours, I had a clean kitchen.

Of course, then she made food again.

It was corn.

Taking Time For You

As I said on Friday, you need to slow down. Yes, you. The one reading this right now.

I know sitting at your computer, reading random ramblings on WordPress, doesn’t seem like something you need to slow down from. But what else are you doing? Are you at work? Studying? Writing a paper? How many tabs do you have open right now, and be honest with yourself. While you’re reading this, you’re probably reading 3 or 4 other websites, have a notebook open somewhere near you, maybe an open book or stack of paperwork, and are thinking about what you need to get done later on today.

Is that really relaxing?

I had a friend, after my health crisis in University, try to get me to meditate. It had always worked for her in the past, helping her relax when her brain wouldn’t slow down. I followed her steps, met with her meditation group, lit the candles and chanted the mantras. All that happened for me was I wound up sitting there for an hour, wondering how much other stuff I could have gotten done in that time. While the dozen or so people around me seemed to transform from tightly wound workaholics to completely relaxed and chilled out, I was more stressed afterwards than when I got there.

Another friend brought me to yoga. Again, this was something she swore by. I already did stretching and random yoga poses at home while watching tv, so it seemed like something I could get into. Instead, I was a miserable stress case. Again, my brain wouldn’t shut off, just like in meditation. But this time, on top of that, I was worrying about the yoga poses. Being a yoga noob, I couldn’t pull off any of the advanced (or even intermediate) poses that I thought looked so easy. I stressed myself out over being so unflexible, and out of shape. Then I got stressed because I was sure unflexible wasn’t a real word, but I couldn’t think of a real word to mean what I thought. Again, I left more stressed out than when I got there.

So, after losing myself in thought on my walk to work one day, I came up with my own relaxation method. I like to daydream. I’m always lost in though while I walk, remembering parts of dreams or story ideas. I’d daydream about saving my co-workers from armed robbers, or learning to cook a fish dish so amazing that Gordon Ramsay shows up on my doorstep in a Speedo to try it. When people offered me rides places, I turned them down so that I could walk and get lost in my thoughts for a bit.

Daydreams are my escape. I can imagine winning the lottery, or the boyfriend taking me to the petting zoo, or my awesome co-worker just being goofy and making me laugh. I can imagine the fantastic or the ordinary, the impossible or the probable. In my head, there are ninjas, samurai, hobbits, narwhals, dragons, and even Batman (or a reasonable (and half naked) facsimile thereof). The world inside my head is awesome, and it’s all mine!

So, every night, no matter how much I have to do or how stressed I am, I go to that world. I imagine Batman coming to save me from danger, and then me having to save him when the danger gets a little out of control, and then him getting to thank me. What a better way to end the day then with that image in my head as I get ready for bed?

My method might not work for everyone. That’s why it’s my method. I made it for me, because it works best for me. As I said, meditation and yoga work great for some people. Other people need books, or a massage, or a sensory deprivation tank. The main thing is you need to find what works for YOU. Only you know what you need.

A Few Words on Self-Care

I’m not going to lie: life can really suck sometimes. It seems like you are constantly on the go, never getting any time for yourself. Then, the rare time you do get a few hours free, you’re so overwhelmed with all the things you need to get done that you can’t just sit and relax. Day in, day out, it’s just go-go-go……….. until one day, it feels like you can’t go anymore.

That, my friends, is burnout. And we all get it at some point.

And yes, it really really sucks.

As I said Wednesday, my schedule is a little crazy right now. There are days, when I finally get a little me-time, when I multi-task my relaxing. I will watch TV, flip through Cosmo, read a book, have a glass or two of wine, and take notes for writing projects, all at the same time. And it’s really not healthy.

There will come a time when all of this go-go-go will start to get to you. It will be harder to get out of bed in the morning, and harder to fall asleep at night. Maybe you won’t be able to quiet your brain at night, or turn it back on when you need it most. You’ll spend your free moments making to-do lists, going over what you need to get done.

At one point in my University career, my health and body just gave up. I was taking 4 classes a semester, working two on-campus jobs (research assistant, and teaching assistant). I was on the Board of Directors for an activist group, and headed up their Fundraising and Events Planning committee. I volunteered in our campus Academic Advising Centre. I helped run Welcome Week events, gave talks to parents of prospective students, recruited students for multiple on-campus organizations, volunteered at local Fraternity events, joined the association for my major AND the one for one of my minors, and did independent research into what I had wanted to do a Psych Thesis on.

Then my health got in the way. First was the ear infection that winter, which got so bad it gave me random bouts of vertigo. This resulted in me passing out in a 7-11 near campus, and having to be rushed my ambulance to the hospital.  Then, the food poisoning hit me that summer. After spending 7 months researching e.coli as part of my job, I got a mild case of it. And by mild, I mean I spent 4 days in the bathroom, and had to be put on an IV for fluids more than once in a two week span. The real kicker came at the end of the summer, when I was gearing up for the next school year.

In the midst of thesis advisor meetings, preliminary research, summer class finals, a new workout regime, Welcome Week preparations, and a long-distance relationship, my mother had to rush me to the hospital. One day I woke up, and was so weak I couldn’t get out of bed. It took me 45 minutes to crawl across my bedroom, and down the hall less than 8 feet to the bathroom. Once there, all I could do was vomit. Then the headache started. I was put in isolation at the hospital for three days, while they gave me morphine and dilauded to try and stop the pain in my head (and they didn’t work, either). After blood work, a lumbar puncture, brain scans, and a fever of 105, the doctor told me it looked like West Nile.

This was my wake-up. I had to slow down, or else my recovery could kill me. I was under strict orders not to exercise, or over exert myself. I dropped down to 3 classes, and eventually dropped my Thesis due to the stress. I started planning more, procrastinating less, and getting things done bit by bit instead of a giant panic all at once. I even (mostly) gave up my all-nighters. Instead of trying to run committees I had no interest in and didn’t even like being a part of, I stayed home and watched Buffy on Netflix with the boyfriend (once he was back in town for school).

Basically, I gave up what I didn’t need. Why bother staying a part of an organization I was getting nothing out of, and wasn’t fully contributing to, when I could focus on the things that mattered most? When I had some health set-backs (most likely due to that fever that wouldn’t break causing a bit of damage that needed time to heal), I didn’t have to worry about getting in touch with 40 people to cover all my extra-curriculars while I was in hospital. I could just focus on being healthy.

Today, I still have a hectic schedule. I take time for me now, though. I’ll watch Netflix on my phone on my lunch break. I’ll make a point of painting my nails once or twice a week, so I’m forced to relax while they dry. Once a month, I take a half-day on a Sunday to just do all the stupid beauty crap I would normally put off, like dyeing my hair and putting on a face mask.And I take 20 minutes each night, right before bed, to just sit in my room, alone, and daydream.

I take care of me, now. And you should do the same for you, too. Yes, you can have your packed schedule, and your Do-It-All mentality. But you also need to have a Don’t-Work-Yourself-Into-An-Early-Grave mentality. When you start to feel worn down, that is your body’s way of telling you slow down a bit. So schedule in some time to relax, do a little something for you each day.

In the immortal words of the 90’s sexiest FBI agent, Dale Cooper, “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.”

Damn good coffee!