I have been living in my cute little duplex on Warrensville for almost four months now, and a common topic of conversation is how I like living off campus this year. I think most people intend that question just to be a starter for small talk and don’t actually realize what a complex issue that is for me to discuss. It’s honestly silly how divided I am about it, and people probably think I’m a total weirdo when I start going into depth about it, but whatever, I’m still going to keep talking about it. Here I go.
First, I’m going to explain my experiences in the dorms my first two years at John Carroll. I had the pleasure of living in “Dirty Murph” my freshman year, which was an experience that just can’t be explained to an outsider. Those who lived there in its glory years know exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, Murphy definitely lived up to its name in terms of its physical state and, because of that, a lot of people talk about it like it was an absolute death trap. That was not entirely the case, though, and there was so much more to Murphy than its mysteriously stained hallway carpets and crumbling brick walls.
As cliché as it sounds, there was such a strong sense of community that came with being a Murphy kid. For example, whenever I bumped into someone in class my freshman year, we always exchanged the generic information, like “What’s your name?” “What’s your major?” “What year are you?” and “Where do you live?” Then, when someone revealed that they also lived in Murphy, it was an automatic connection. I’m sure it was like that for the other dorms as well, but there was something special about the spirit of Murphy. In that way, dorm living was definitely a very special experience for me. I then lived in Millor the following year, which was a huge step up from Murphy. Millor was a great time too, because so many of my friends lived there as well, and if they didn’t live there then they were just a hop, skip and a jump away in Campion or Hamlin. It was so effortless for me to hang out with my friends that I absolutely took it for granted.
Moving into my own place this summer was such a different experience for me. Obviously, the most noticeable difference has been how much more detached I feel from the John Carroll community. It’s not like I can just walk out of my room now and see a bunch of my friends just bopping around in the hallway. If I do want to see my friends, it’s not as simple as just a quick walk over to Hamlin or Campion. I have to actually get in my car and drive somewhere. I realize how pathetic and whiny I sound when I say it like that, and it is such a first world problem. But, for my fellow off-campus students, you know how annoying it gets to not be able to just walk anywhere, especially at night. It’s become way too easy for me to just stay home and be a loser rather than to make an effort to visit my friends who live elsewhere. That’s a problem.
Furthermore, I’ve lost out on the experience of bonding with old and new friends in the cafeteria. Everyone knows that the only thing the caf is actually good for is social interactions, and as glad I am to not have to eat their food anymore, I’m also sad that I no longer get to enjoy a nice meal and casual conversation with random people everyday.
So, losing my sense of community with the rest of John Carroll has been a significant downside to moving off campus. However, there are a billion benefits that make up for it. The biggest benefit is the sense of independence I have now that I’m living in my own place. Honestly, you can’t believe how many candles I burn weekly now that there’s no one around to fine me for it. I also get to decide what I want to eat everyday, and although God knows I’m not the best cook around, you can still bet your bottom dollar that anything I make is 10 times better than the cardboard crap they serve in the cafeteria. True, I don’t get to eat with random people anymore, but I do get to share my meals with my two lovely roommates, which is just as good. I don’t have to share my bathroom with 30 other girls anymore, and it felt so good to throw away my shower shoes at the end of last semester.
However, with great power comes great responsibility (yeah, I just quoted “Spider-Man,” deal with it), and taking on all of these extra responsibilities has definitely been challenging. Things like buying all of my own groceries and paying my rent on time, which seemed like no big deal to me before this year, have made me realize that I really am becoming an adult, which is terrifying. But, there comes a time when you just have to embrace change and whatever is coming next. Dorm living is always going to be a fond memory for me, but I’ve now accepted that it’s time to move on and grasp my independence with both hands.
So, for those of you debating over where to live next year, I’ll leave you with this: dorm life has been one of the highlights of my college life, but moving on is good too, and living in a house teaches you valuable skills you can’t learn in a dorm.