If home is where the heart is, I’ve left that beating organ of mine in the second shower stall of a bathroom I refuse to be barefoot in.
I have a complicated relationship with my dorm. I lovingly refer to it as “The Ritz Carlton of the Hill,” because of its beautiful blue-tiled bathrooms and hotel-esque carpeting that make me feel Important. I will say, however, that the semi-regular elevator, laundry, and bathroom malfunctions bring me back to reality. I’m nineteen and living with a bunch of Young People Who Have A Lot Going On At The Moment, Okay?
The one thing I sort of crave, though, is a chance to be in the “In” crowd of my very social floor. Or maybe not. I’m not sure.
I do know one thing for certain: I love to be in the know, and you can’t be in the know if you don’t know anyone. You know?
It was with this mindset that I decided it was time for me to take matters into my own hands. To go rogue, to the place where few have dared to go before. Using every little bit of the knowledge I’ve gained over the past year or so of being a pre-Public Affairs major, I decided to roll up my sleeves and get to work knocking on peoples’ doors. Arming myself with no more than my lime green crocs, clammy hands, and a dream, I stepped out into the hallway ready to make my vision of community a reality. A floor united by my Great Work, my Magnum Opus. My Homage to Our Collective Home.
“Hi, I’m writing an article for the UCLA Radio Blog and I was wondering if you had a few minutes to answer some questions! It’ll be super quick, don’t worry. Really? Great! Thanks so much! Ok so…”
The topic of the article, I said when asked, was an utmost secret and could not be revealed until the last possible moment. What I did not add was that the content of the article was a mystery to me as well.
What I found was a floor in no need of a great unifier. A floor of artists, engineers, and researchers. A floor where people mid-chemistry midterm will still answer a knock at the door (once again– so sorry). A floor of kind, determined people who were willing to humor my questions and tell me just a little bit about themselves to pad an article with hazy intents.
I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. Would they hate me? Would they listen to my spiel and slam the door in my face, not even deigning to respond? The answer, to my surprise, was no. Instead, I found that I’ve been living next to some really cool people who actually like to talk to each other.
When asked their thoughts about saying hi to people in the hallways, I expected my floormates to bemoan the awkwardness I felt. To describe that feeling of sliding your headphones off the side of your ear, of slowing down your walk to say “how are you!” at the same time as someone else and awkwardly laugh it off. And while some did echo my sentiments – “As an introvert, I hate it,” someone succinctly said– others shocked me by their alternate interpretations of the oft-encountered predicament.
“I honestly love it,” said Neha, who lives right across from me. She went on to explain how, despite it being a knee-jerk reaction, it helps her feel connected to the people she lives with. Maybe if I shared her view beforehand I’d have known that she was from Zimbabwe, that this was her first time living in the U.S. I was glad I had a mask on when she told me to hide my cheeks, which were blooming red from embarrassment. How could I not know that?
By far my favorite question that I asked each room was if there was a group or creative endeavor they were apart or aware of that they wanted to shout out. I heard about how Makayla is helping illustrate a children’s book for Pages for Pediatrics, how Karen builds cars with Bruin Racing that she actually drives, and that Matthew works with USAC to make our campus more sustainable.
I learned that Neha is from Zimbabwe and was in my IDS 1 class fall quarter 2020. In the second grade, Jacob from next door shaved off a part of his big toe on an escalator. Another neighbor who wishes to remain anonymous once almost threw up when they saw someone go barefoot in our communal showers.
The more you know!
In order to keep my “interviews” as Radio Relevant as possible, I made sure to ask everyone for a song recommendation. The resulting playlist of these recommendations, Sounds of the Hill, is a listen in on the instrumental and lyrical heart of America’s current coeds.
In the days since I annoyed my neighbors, I’ve been listening to our soundtrack, mulling over that night and all the nights we’ve already shared. Thinking about the amount of times I’ve avoided contact when hustling to my room, the amount of missed conversations I could’ve had.
Sometimes it’s worth it to take off your headphones when you’re walking down the hall. To slow your walk or even come to a stop when you pass by a casual acquaintance. Small talk may be a pain at times, but don’t kid yourself by thinking that means you won’t enjoy it. Your life is ultimately composed of the people within it, and your neighbors are living, breathing, waiting… just behind your walls.