The best thing about living with other people is also the worst thing about living with other people: There’s always someone else around. That means someone to talk to, have fun with, and make dinner with, but it also means someone to be considerate of, to block the bathroom when you need it, and whose quirks you’ll have to learn to accept. In other words, there’s no room to be self-centered.
When we’re young, especially in college, we often share a flat with strangers. It’s rarely the best of living arrangements. For one, we know our roommates will only be with us temporarily, and for another, when you’ve left the comfort of your home for the first time, you really need to be self-centered. Your 20s are the time to discover, find, and invent yourself, and anyone else inhibiting that freedom gets in the way of that process — in case of roommates often literally.
Once you know what you need, who you are, and where you’re going, it’s easier to negotiate the terms of co-habitation. To compromise yet ensure your health and wellbeing are taken care of. And of course, if the person we live with is someone we have chosen, ideally, we’ll value their company more so than we’ll mind their kinks.
In its best-case scenario, living together not just won’t limit us. It’ll help us become the best we can be. When you live with family, there might not be space to be self-centered, but you can still be self-caring. In fact, it is your moral obligation to take care of yourself — maybe not always first, but often enough to maintain the energy to take care of others.
When your partner works in your living room, you can’t run around naked all day, but you can still take three hours to play some video games. When your children clamor for food, you can’t eat dinner at 10 PM, but you can still make the kind of meal you’ll enjoy at any time of the day. When your daily obligations extend beyond yourself, you’ll curb a lot of the unnecessary, be it expenses, activities, or habits, and in that pruning, you’ll find out what really matters.
Whether you’re providing for or just caring about them, being a good person for others gives us a standard to live up to, and when we measure our work and behavior against that standard, we can’t help but raise our own bar.
It’s okay to be self-centered for a while. We all need space to unfold. Once the wings of your origami have fallen into the right place, however, it’s much more important to be self-caring — not as a means to feed your ego, but as a way of accomplishing the mission that’s larger than yourself.