Now when I became 26 i realised that it meant that I am, as my good friends kindly informed me “closing in on 30”, “life ends after 25” or as one more pessimistic friend, and I use the word friend conditionally said, “getting ready for death.”
I’ve found it weird to be honest how the slightest shift in age from 25 to 26 can have such a monumental effect on the way people look at you, how they judge your life and what you do. For example when I was 25 people would ask me where I lived and I’d say “in a house” and they’d be content that I wasn’t homeless. However now when I’m asked the same question they remark “you share? You share a house with other people?” to which I say “yes”. It’s as if I’ve just said I live the Austrian way but they should never visit my basement.
Now this “yes to sharing” is invariably followed by a long silence in which everyone goes quiet before the conversation moves on to more serious conversation like mortgages or insurance or pensions. Pensions, I’m 26 and I have friends who talk about pensions. It’s utterly terrifying.
Now I’ve started to take on board some of these comments and have started recently looking at flats, not in a serious way, I’ll never look round anywhere, but if i say i’m looking and i’m lot then at least its a bit more convincing if it’s something I’ve actually considered.
But I think people forget how great it can be to live with other people, to have flatmates, I mean sure sometimes people choose badly and end up living with people they despise but even them in terms of life enriching experience, experience that can be bottled as anecdotes there’s surely nothing better.
When I lived in my old house, a gloriously run down townhouse in the centre of beautiful York I had many grim times, times filled with sadness, times where i wanted the world to swallow me up. But then I also had times where I’ve been in awkward situations where the tales have saved me, where the stories have made girls laugh and love, where the sheer random weirdness of it all has, to all intense and purposes saved me from the terrible tragic experience of hitting the mortgage, pension, premature death cycle of conversation.
Take one example.
It’s 11pm and my flatmate persuades me that what I really want to do on a Thursday night is queue outside HMV in the freezing fog so he can purchase “Call Of Duty Modern Warefare 2”. So we walk down and there are about 400 people, I say people, I mean teenage boys and slightly large framed balding bespectacled men with sci-fi culture t-shirts on waiting before us. I try to distance myself from them but find myself drawn in as the temperature plummets and we stand like penguins on the Antarctic ice.
Finally the shop doors open and we stream into the warmth grabbing copies of the game, this wondrous game that will change all our lives forever. My flatmate rushes in and emerges with what appears to be a small suitcase, rather large for a game I suggest, but he shrugs and dismisses my query with “it’s the hardened edition, it comes with night vision goggles”. Oh, of course. No, wait. Night vision what? “Goggles”.
So we walk home via McDonalds (2 cheeseburgers for me, 5 quarter pounders for him) and we stroll casually into the house at 2am. I go straight to sleep bidding my friend goodnight and thanking him (“why the f**k did I need to queue with you”) for an exciting and adventurous evening. I jump into bed, close my eyes and let my dreams take me away.
But that’s not where it ends.
At about 4am I hear a rustling noise. Something is in my room. The moon is nowhere to be seen, a powercut seems to have hit the entire house, and, more disturbingly, my wardrobe seems to be breathing. Then I hear it.
“I can see you”
He’s stood in my room testing the night vision goggles. I ask the most prominent question in my head while in a pitch black room with a friend wearing night vision goggles…
“Have you any idea what time it is?”
Clearly he hasn’t, as for a second I see the glow of a watch…
This has answered the question but sadly posed another…
“Do you, do you have any clothes on?”
“I just wanted to test them out.”
And it’s this sort of story having flatmates provides. If I had lived alone would I have had a straight naked 6 foot 5 inch bloke wearing night vision goggles in my room as I slept but who was completely unaware that it might be construed as a somewhat strange situation. No, of course not, i’d be researching pensions and thinking about death.
Which is precisely why when people ask me why I house share I tell them that, and many other stories about the comic joy of sharing, the bits they forget, the bits that surprise us and keep us on our toes. I tell them, their eyes light up and suddenly they realize there can be life after 25.