I am an avid journaler. I have 29 journals that don’t shut all the way because they are packed with tickets and pressed flowers and receipts and cards and notes and fruit stickers. Okay, I’m a hoarder. I’m also a sentimental cheese-ball. How is this important? It means that I have a detailed record of my co-op life.
The first week of co-op life was a flurry of bike rides, dried lentils, cats and sitting on the porch confused about how to live with 14 people.
When I visited the co-ops as an applicant, it was a place to garden, dance and eat seitan. I hadn’t considered what living in that space actually entailed. In the first month or so the main things I learned were how to cook over-easy eggs and that Youth Lagoon somehow feels like a leather sofa, rooftop phone calls, nerve-wracking nights, fire alarm tests, cleaning for 12 hours and the “feelings” meeting agenda item.
Over the last nine months in the co-ops, I managed to find the “discover” feature on Spotify and also become a more motivated, dedicated, confident and responsible person. As I’m sitting in my dark room with my fan running on high because we don’t have an air conditioner, I’m thinking about what I’ll be taking with me and leaving behind when I leave for the summer.
I’ll probably leave my bamboo plant, since it dislikes the Davis tap water as much as the rest of us. I’ll probably leave a few books in my house library. Sorry Conrad, Douglas Adams will bring me a less fraught summer. I’ll be bringing home a few empty suitcases, because a year of learning to travel and swapping rooms every 10 weeks taught me to pare down. Don’t get me wrong, I still love all my floral dresses.
I’ll be taking a lot of lessons with me, ones that people tried to teach me pre-college. Before college, my teachers and parents tried to teach me responsibility and time management. Ha. Middle school was more about learning that Hot Topic neon pants are not a no-no and in high school I mastered the inaudible-to-adults quip. I didn’t think that hard work would get me to the acclaimed college student status. It wasn’t until I got out of the wonderful system of state education standards and started doing things for myself that I started caring about “life lessons.”
I can’t possibly separate my college lessons from my co-op ones, nor can I claim that I wouldn’t have learned these outside a co-op. I’m tentatively saying about myself now what I’ve heard co-op alumni say: In the co-op, I have learned how to communicate, live with people, live with myself, and, well, get shit done. I wrote about communication, which kind of relates to living with people. I feel that living with people and living with myself are linked. And, no, I don’t mean living with myself in an I-ran-over-my-childhood-cat-while-pretending-to-drive-my-mom’s-car-when-I-was-12-way. I mean that I learned to be alone and be with people and be okay with myself in pretty much any situation. Imagine me in frantic hamster form when I moved in. I am now a wise and collected owl. I eat hamsters for breakfast.
Not only have I become comfortable with myself and learned to turn my head all the way around, living in a co-op has taught me things that are highly applicable to an actual adult career. I could win a gold medal in spreadsheet use and rapidfire emailing. I can facilitate and participate in meetings. I can do adult things that are boring to list.
The downside of learning these things is that I journal less due to time constraints. But my house has become my journal. My fruit stickers now frame our kitchen door and the receipts are carefully labelled, sorted and stored. Bam. Adult points. (Because of the receipts, not the stickers.)
I’m trying to come to some sort of conclusion but, as I said in my first article, I don’t think I can. When interviewing applicants, my house likes to say that things in the co-op are “fluid” and I think that encompasses a lot. I, along with the people around me, are constantly changing, even outside of the co-op. I look forward to taking that, and all the other lessons, with me, even if I’m still unsure about our ownership model.
Make really pretty spreadsheets and always pack a towel with ISABEL MONIZ via email@example.com. If you’re interested in hearing more about the co-ops, come by in the fall for garden parties on Fridays at 2 p.m. and dinners Sunday-Thursday at 7 p.m.