I spent a month living with the other volunteers in a shared house. The experience was miserable.
To paint the scene for you, here was the situation. The company I work for rented a house that was a little out in the middle of nowhere. It was a twenty minute walk to the nearest town (a 3 or 4 minute drive), and maybe a 15 minute drive to the nearest city. We had one shared car between us. Nearby, there was a nice beach and a lot of empty space.
The house had a massive ground floor with one private bedroom, a private bathroom, the kitchen and a massive living room. The upper floor had two bathrooms and three shared bedrooms. There was also a semi-habitable bedroom in the basement.
The house was populated with six or seven people depending on the time I was there. Most of the other residents were women, but there was a man there two nights a week. The ages of the volunteers were distributed from 24-34. I myself am 35.
I mention that bit so that people can try to sleuth out what happened.
I didn’t start off all that miserable. At first people were nice enough. But they were always stand off-ish from the start. I hoped that ultimately I would grow on them, and I tried to keep to myself a bit. I know that I am a little on the peculiar side, and sometimes I am best dealt with in doses. So I gave people space and tried to get to know them gradually. I am not sure to what extent this was ever going to be successful. Largely, it seems like it wasn’t.
But here is what went down that actually got to me.
At some point I noticed that every time I walked into a room conversations would die down to hushed whispers. This was irritating, and frankly rude. But I took it to mean that they were just in the middle of a private conversations. Of everyone there, I was the new one arrived, and I just hadn’t established that level of trust with them. Fine. I accepted it.
Later, the problem started to escalate. I would be in the living room finishing up some work and no one would be in there with me. I would finish up my work and head upstairs into my bedroom. The living room would then slowly populate with the other residents of the house, until the lively warm conversations they were having filled the whole house. I figured it would do me well to get to know them, so I went downstairs to see what the conversation was about.
It died right as I walked in. Slowly, one by one, they all began to leave the living room for their various bedrooms, until I was once again the only person left in the living room. Feeling awkward, I would wait awhile (often doing something that necessitated my being down there) before heading back to my room. Maybe an hour later, and they were all back there in the living room. This happened with all the volunteers at some point.
Rinse, repeat. For three weeks.
I would love to say that this ultimately didn’t get to me, but of course it did. On their part, this behavior was flat out disrespectful. No one likes to be ostracized, but I guess if someone had to deal with it may as well have been me. Still, I can help but think that this kind of treatment should largely be earned. I am still unsure what it is that I did to earn it.
Maybe I can just sleep soundly at night knowing that its just that people suck.