How a Roommate Makes a House a Home

This week’s post is by 2017-2018 OCH Fellow Kristi Eaton, an independent journalist and a native of Tulsa. She is the author of the book “The Main Streets of Oklahoma: Okie Stories from Every County.” She recently completed a fellowship with the International Reporting Project, reporting on women’s rights issues from India.

I think about the idea of home a lot. I consider myself a roving journalist, meaning I report from different areas of the United States and the world. I’ve lived and reported from the Northern Mariana Islands, Cambodia, India, Nashville and points in between. But something about Tulsa always brings me back. It’s my home. It’s where I grew up. I remember learning the names of the major streets as a child. Something about the city, particularly in the summertime, brings me comfort when I need it most.

At the same time, I often seek ways to reject it, looking for opportunities outside of the state and even the country. I think it’s the comfort and simplicity Tulsa offers after I’ve satisfied my need for new experiences that my childhood home now represents for me. Much of my career has been about chasing the opportunities. Instead of deciding which place I wanted to make my home and then looking for career opportunities, I used the opportunities to decide where my home would be based. That meant spending two years living and working in South Dakota, one year in Oklahoma City and short stints in San Francisco and Indonesia.

I’m now back in the Tulsa area, and I find one of the things that has made the transition easiest has been enjoying the people around me. Friends and family can make or break a community and a home. My home right now includes a roommate, Jessica. At 32, I never thought I would be living with a roommate, but I find that I enjoy it quite a bit.

In fact, in America, we seem to value solitude when it comes to living arrangements. Outside of marriage and kids, a roommate is often looked down upon, a crutch used to feel better.

In fact, just 4 percent of Americans aged 30 to 34 live with a roommate, according to this story, which highlights data from the Current Population Survey. Eric Klinenberg, author of “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone,” says there is a stigma attached to living with a roommate in your 30s.

But experience with a roommate has made my home life richer. I initially moved in with my friend upon returning to the area from abroad and wanting to save some money, but over time, I’ve realized that I quite enjoy living with someone else. I now have a built-in friend, confidante, and trusted advisor. We share what happens during our days, gossiping about our lives over a glass of wine. We also take turns with the house chores, alternating washing the dishes and taking out the trash. As someone who works from home alone most days as a freelance journalist, I spend a lot of time alone during the day. Having a sounding board and trusted friend to bounce ideas off at the end of the day is nice.

According to “How We Live Now,” by Bella DePaulo, a study from AARP asking women 45 and older to explain the appeal of a sharing a home with friends found that nearly 90 percent listed companionship as the most attractive quality. Affordability and safety were also factors.

People sometimes ask if we ever get into fights over living arrangements. In fact, that was one of Jessica’s worst fears about me moving in: that our friendship would suffer. But we have a system where we basically just talk about everything and share the expenses when it comes to items like toilet paper, paper towels and trash bags. I pay her rent every month, and she pays the landlord. We don’t allow strangers into the apartment; we both need to know the person in order for them to be allowed to stay at our place.

Jessica is more than just a roommate to me now. She’s a good friend. We hang out on a regular basis outside of the apartment, visiting the fair, going on trips to places like Branson and attending local events. Jessica has taught me what it means to be selfless, carefree yet determined, inquisitive and friendly. It’s made my home fuller and more fun, which I think anyone can support.