Living with a Stranger During CoVid-19 Pandemic

I moved house on the 10th of March 2020. As I was unboxing one of the first of many boxes in my new apartment, my phone buzzed with a notification saying Italy had gone into lock down on the very same day due to the new COVID-19 virus. The thing was, I was sharing this apartment with a guy who I had never met.

That is a little of a stretch, I had met him once for five minutes when I went to view the apartment with a letting agent. Little did I know then that I was going to spend the next four months being locked in the same two bedroomed apartment with, let’s be honest now, a complete and total stranger. I knew two things about him. his name and he liked gaming.

You might be asking yourself why I decided to move in the first place. Well, in my previous one bedroom apartment things had broken down so irrevocably with my landlord that I didn’t feel I had a choice. I didn’t plan to move in the middle of a global health crisis, I don’t think anyone does and after months of running over the city viewing apartments I was just happy to find somewhere in by budget that didn’t mean I was living with a three or four other people. I didn’t think too much about who I would be sharing an apartment with. I took it for granted that like in my old apartment, I would hardly ever be home as work and a social life would keep me busy. Oh, how precious and naive it was to think I could take things for granted during 2020. Very cute.

Let’s get this out of the way: this is not a story of how two strangers were thrown together in an impossible situation and find love. If anything, it was quite the opposite.

The first few weeks were fine. He kept to his bedroom and I tried to find a balance between figuring out how to teach online and unpack and create storage in an apartment that literally had no storage. We were overly courteous and respectful of each other’s space. I had my routine, he had his. We played a few table top games together.

Once things settled down and he caught on to the fact it was possible to work in the living room (where I was planning lessons, correcting and setting homework- basically doing anything that wasn’t a live lesson) and he decided to do the same. The first week was fine. The second week of co working in very different industries was okay. The third week, not having seen anything else but his face, I started to become irritated and his sudden desire to cook and eat when I wanted to faking a smile through gritted teeth.

By mid April I was pretty much confining myself to the balcony, trying to soak up some spring rays and my bedroom as he was working in living room, the main part of the house with the dining table. It got pretty frustrating as I had to makeshift a kind of desk with chairs and laptop tables, it wasn’t stable and it drove me crazy dealing with it everyday which led to resentment. This usually would not have been a problem because I used to plan and do all my lessons and admin at school but being in locked up in a new home, not being able to go out for exercise or a daily walk and learning how to adjust to this new life with a stranger forever in my presence that grilled meat at eleven pm at night (vegetarian/ wannabe vegan here) was difficult.

My housemate was in the living room from 8:30 in the morning till 19:00 in the evening . When I needed the bathroom, I walked passed him. When I went to the kitchen, he was there. If I wanted something from my bedroom, you guessed it, he was there. He wasn’t the person I wanted to be seeing. He wasn’t my family, he wasn’t a good friend or my partner or a colleague. He was a stranger that I had to learn to trust in a heartbeat and every time I saw him, I was reminded of all the things I didn’t have or couldn’t do.

In the end, I ended up pretty much locking myself in my bedroom and only leaving to eat or go to the bathroom. I was living, working, and sleeping in my bedroom and trying as much as possible to avoid my housemate. I even turned it into a game, I tried to see if I could go the whole day without seeing him. I never managed to.

The saving grace was meal times on the balcony and yoga in the morning which I deliberately woke up early and did in the living room before my housemate woke up. Fortunately the days were warming and even in the evening it was still warm enough to use my makeshift desk to watch an episode of something while staring out into the suburbs from my balcony. Also weekly virtual cocktails with friends and weekly trips to the supermarket.

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I learnt a lot about myself but, as most things, only in hindsight. First I learnt that I need separate spaces for working, living and sleeping. When I mixed them up I couldn’t sleep well, I couldn’t work well and everything started to merge into one.

Second, humans are strange and don’t like it when things change or move too quickly. When things turn topsy turvy we tend to find ourselves spiralling towards negative behaviours and doing things that in reality puts us in a worse state than before. I didn’t try hard enough to be friends with or communicate my issues better in fear of a, not wanting to be an annoying housemate who is always complaining and b, trying to understand that my housemate was also trying to get on with his own life. I missed an opportunity to make a friend for life and while I subconsciously knew at the time I wasn’t reacting in a healthy way, it seemed the easiest option at the time.

The third thing I learnt, along with most other people was not to take things for granted. I had to learn it’s okay to look and schedule my time every week and not just once and expect it to stick for the foreseeable future. Enjoy the things while you can and make memories while you can and take photos or journal so you can look back on things and appreciate the times you did have, not just sit in the worry you might never do those things again.

So here are some of my tips to dealing with lock down 342.0 (it seems)

  1. Write down one good (semi good) thing that happened or made you happy EACH day. Grab that dusty notebook lying in your draw and get writing. It’ll make you more appreciative of the little things and give you some perspective.
  2. Move your body in which ever way is best for you once a day.
  3. Talk to someone once a day, even for five minutes. Humans are so desperately in need of social contact.
  4. Get therapy. There is alway a reason to seek an outside and objective point of view. A few months back I decided to start therapy again and found an affordable therapist online at UK Therapy Guide. Talk to your doctor about therapy on the NHS or your insurance if you can’t afford it.
  5. When things are getting too much, physically move yourself from the environment. Go to another room or go outside your front door, close it and take a few deep breaths.
  6. Wait a day or two before responding with anger.
  7. Communicate your needs to those you live with and find solutions or compromises.
  8. Schedule one social activity a week, virtual if needs be.
  9. Eat well and DO NOT put those treats in your shopping basket. You’ll just be too tempted.
  10. Sleep. Despite what you might think, you do need energy to do nothing!

My housemate and I still live with each other. We get on okay. Since the world has started to open up and I’ve found myself back in the classroom more and more, I’ve come to appreciate there being someone home when I am. We are probably never going to be best of friends but right now, that’s okay.

What are some of your lockdown tales? I would really know your lockdown situation whether you’re living alone, walked a marathon or simply being amazing by staying home. Please comment down below or DM me on socials.

Stay sane, stay safe, stay at home!

Over and Out,

TTT x

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