Share-housing in Lockdown

Written by Alex Wiltshire

I moved into a share-house in Preston during that brief period of time when things were looking up, right before the second wave hit and restrictions came down even harder than before. They’re a good call for preventing the spread of the virus, but these things tend to take a toll on people’s mental wellbeing: especially if you weren’t doing so hot beforehand.

When I was studying at Deakin, I lived in this tiny apartment owned by Student Housing Australia, right across the road from the university and in no way affiliated with them. This was around 2018, and even with the ability to go out and socialise, I still felt that sense of desperation and loneliness that comes with living alone and with a variety of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety adding an extra bit of spice to the whole experience. I can’t imagine living in that same situation now with all these new rules in place, and my heart goes out to the people living in 58 Station Street right now.

Prior to that, I had lived in a share-house in Glen Waverley with my best mate from high school and a slew of other people. That experience left me feeling very averse to any future share-housing after things got ugly over room sizes and rent disputes, so I opted to live alone for a while, which, as I previously established, was not a good time.

So, onto this new share-house in Preston. I’d by now finished my degree so I could get as far away from Burwood as possible. I considered Fitzroy and Brunswick as the obvious choices, but I had a certain fondness for the Northcote music scene, so when a mate advertised a room in Preston over Facebook, I was like, close enough. At this point, things were looking up, and I was excited to start going to gigs again, getting on the beers with Dandrews, and so forth. Of course, it doesn’t play out like that. So now, for six weeks minimum, I’m going to be spending a whole lot of time with these people, most of whom I’d only just met.

There’s a lot of anxiety at first. Figuring out each other’s personalities and hoping that none of them are going to clash, that people aren’t going to nick your beer from the fridge or wake you up at six in the morning by using the coffee machine directly beside your bedroom. A main concern was that I wasn’t going to feel comfortable spending time in the lounge room and kitchen area and have to spend most of the time hauled up in my room in a Burwood 2.0 situation. But time passes, and I started to realise that some of these people are just as neurotic as me.

I remember on one of the first nights I was there, they were telling me a story about their previous housemate, forty-years-old, and how he drank and smoked a whole bunch and would yell at them at 3 am, completely smashed, for smoking weed.

‘He made me so mad. I wanted to take his bottle of wine and piss in it, then smile politely as I watched him drink it!’

This conversation didn’t do much to ease my concerns, but it did make me feel less self-conscious about my own problems. I now also try to make a point of exclusively drinking unopened beverages.

But time passes, we get to know one another, and it seems that we have a lot in common: one guy is a musician like me, another is an artist, and another is an avid reader of the classics, so we have plenty to talk about. My choices were either moving back to Mount Martha with my family or this share-house, and I am so glad I picked the latter! After six weeks with the fam, it may have devolved into a full-blown ‘Shining’ situation.

Those little conversations you have every day make a world of difference when you’re unable to go out and see your friends. Those times when someone will cook a nice vegetarian lasagna for the whole house, and you just feel a sense of community, and the occasional D&Ms where you talk about all your trauma, just how tough it all is, and how you’re both really grateful to have someone who understands.

There are downsides, of course. Dirty dishes, and ominous cries or laughter in the late hours of the night, whether it be from yourself or others. Every day something smashes in the kitchen—I narrowly avoided slicing my toe open on a shard of glass while scouring the fridge for food, which incidentally has a busted freezer that leaks water all across the floor. If you slip on the water, you’re liable to slice yourself open on a piece of glass; it adds a small thrill to the mundane task of pouring milk into your cereal. I swear we’ve been talking about fixing it for months, but nothing has come of it. There haven’t been any passive-aggressive notes on the fridge as of yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it came to that.

Regardless of this, the share-house experience has been a blessing during this nightmare of a year, and I’m grateful to have stumbled across such a compatible group of people. I still have really bad days, as we all do from time to time, but I know that some people are really struggling, consistently, whether it be dealing with the added stress of uni, work, or just having nothing to do. And the only thing I can say to that is probably the same thing you’ve heard a million times before: it will get better, and no matter how our situations vary, we all have those bad days.

Thanks for reading. I haven’t done anything productive in weeks.

Alex studied Graphic Design at Deakin University, where he wrote pretentious poetry for WORDLY magazine. Now that he’s graduated, he’s moved on to playing pretentious music in the band ETM. He auditioned for guitar, but they stuck him with bass. He’s not bitter at all. You can witness his various artistic endeavours at @alexwiltshire_design on Instagram and @escapethemazeband on Facebook.

Alex’s work appears in the Skeptic, IllusionContact, and Harmony editions of WORDLY Magazine.

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