Posted by: E (The Third Glance) | August 2, 2013

I have a new roommate

Change is hard. Even when you know what’s coming, change is hard. I think that’s true of everyone, not just autistic people. But in some people, the ingrained routines that make functional life possible are there for a reason, and when they break down, all hell breaks loose.

I’ve been living alone the past month. This suits me. I do best when I can relax and re-charge in my own space, and not have to worry about other people. I’ve been on the waitlist for a one-bedroom apartment for months, and hopefully it pops up soon. It comes down to the fact that I like having my own space.

I don’t get to choose my roommate. That’s one of the bad things about living in university housing. We are assigned roommates based on gender and their requested move-in date. Whenever there’s a spot to fill, they fill it. This leads to a roommate crapshoot that is even worse than freshman dorms. At least then they asked us questions like “early bird or night owl?” and “clean/moderately messy/slob” and attempted to match us up based on some simple living considerations.

My old roommate and I mostly got along. If you’ve ever heard or seen the musical “Wicked”, we were a bit like Galinda (her) and Elphaba (me), especially during the introduction to the song “loathing”. But as with Galinda and Elphaba, we learned to live with each other fairly quickly, and ended up making really compatible roommates. We’re both morning people, and we like to keep clean. She spent a lot of time out of the apartment, was clean, quiet, and we got along pretty well.

My new roommate is just barely 21, and is super excited that she is. She’s an extrovert, and full of energy, and doesn’t. ever. stop. talking. She’s sweet, don’t get me wrong, but I’m exhausted, and I’ve known her for 3 hours. She’s from China, and her English is pretty darn good, but definitely leads to some miscommunications already. She speaks better than she understands, which makes sense for such a talkative person, I guess. But anyway, it’s going to take some adjusting. It wouldn’t surprise me if she’s the party person. We’ll see how that goes with my crazy downstairs neighbors. I, at least, can just shut my door with the cat inside and call it quits.

We haven’t been able to sit down and do the “new roommate” things yet, like discuss whose side is whose in the fridge, and how we pay electricity and internet and stuff. I’m a little terrified to do it, but we need to have that conversation and figure out ground rules. It’s a little weird, since I’ve been living here for so long, and I’m all settled in. But I don’t want it to feel like she’s moving into “my” apartment. Even though basically she is. Anyway, my only major ground rules for roommate-hood are: don’t touch my stuff, don’t mess around with the cat or let him outside, lock the door behind you (she’s already failing at that), and keep the sink clean. And I’m not telling her I’m autistic just yet. I think it won’t go over well. We’ll see how this goes.

And now I’m off to take a nap. She’s exhausting! I know this will work itself out, it always does. But that doesn’t mean I’m not exhausted and stressed out by it.


  1. Wow, what a change. That sounds really stressful, E. I hope you get that one bedroom soon!

  2. I know you probably don’t need advice here, maybe just a little encouragement from an old person? 🙂 Be honest with her about your need for peace up front. Explain how important it is to have quiet, space and order, and hopefully this will set up some clear boundaries for her from the get go. Good luck. Many of us (on the spectrum or not) reading this understand completely your stress.

  3. Hang in there. I’ve had some extreme roommates over the years. It may not sound like fun, but the sooner you have that talk with her, the better.

    Sounds like quality time with your cat is a good idea. That’s where I turn when life becomes a little too interesting. (Life has been interesting lately. My cat is getting tired of me.)


    P.S. But I’m going to laugh if in a couple of months you write a post titled, “My roommate took me clubbing”. Oh my!

  4. Aw… E. The instant I read the title to this I physically felt a little ill. I so, so, so, so relate. Roommates… I don’t even like sharing a studio/work space as I need quiet, as in complete and total silence in order to concentrate and cannot tolerate the constant barrage of phone calling, fax noise, music, etc that seems to accompany most offices. I love getting into my studio by 6:00AM so that I have those first few hours of utter silence when no one else is even in the building!
    I have nothing even remotely helpful to say! I’m thinking of you and sending you virtual hugs of support and understanding… :/

  5. i’m post college now, but i remember in college trying very hard to be social, seeing if i could make that work…and the mental exhaustion that ensued, even from very basic small talk, was just too much. i would chat briefly with someone, and the more they spoke, the more profoundly i felt like taking a huge, months long nap. it was after college that i finally set myself up in an apartment, mostly alone, except for bouts of roomateness. anyway, the mental quiet of alone time…it was nice…very much enjoyed your description here, hope you can get your one-room set up very soon, good luck.

  6. In my job and since I started OT school, I am now getting used to being around extroverts whenever I am at work, school, or other settings that I am with them. I agree with you that it can be exhausting.

    One thing I have learned to do- be myself while maintaining friendliness. Also, while I don’t go to every party that they invite me, I go to enough of them to show them that I am willing to go outside of my comfort zone to socialize and have fun.

    My advice- Talk to your roommate about your AS and try to come up with a win-win situation that allows both of you to co-exist. Sometimes you have to be assertive to tell her that you are tired, sometimes you have to be go with the flow (since you don’t want to be portrayed as anti-social). What I have learned with my time with my OT peers was that read the situation and act accordingly… similar to how what a quarterback would do if his primary play option is not available.

  7. I am sorry to hear this, E. I’m hoping things are getting better… and sending hugs and spoons!

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