Jacob Shapiro, born-and-raised New Yorker, joins the Outpost Club. Let Jacob tell you why he joined Outpost Club and his position on coliving:
I felt alone, even in my own home, surrounded by my three best friends and roommates.
It was this paradox that led me to think critically about my living arrangement. How could it be that my best friends and I created an atmosphere that made me feel alone? I never blamed them for it, nor did I ever tell them. I blamed myself, very common of my nature.
I hadn’t realized what I now know: it wasn’t my fault or my friends; it was the living arrangement itself. The same living arrangement that millions of urban millennials live in across the US and the world: living with your friends and only your friends. Some urban millennials may live with complete strangers, but it is likely that they have no clue who their neighbors are. The immediate community around them are (and will remain) strangers from move-in to move-out.
I tried to think back to a time when I really loved my housing accommodations, and I could only think of one instance: the two years I spent living in dorms at Champlain College, my alma mater. Regardless of all its faults it was my favorite living accommodations for two reasons:
The dorms at Champlain College are unlike most dorms. When you think of college dorms, one normally imagines big brick buildings with no character. Take a look at my freshman and sophomore dorms. Granted, I went to a rich-kid liberal arts school in the northeast, but the point still stands. When I came “home” it was not to a square brick building. It was a Victorian mansion converted into a dorm, where no room was like any other room. This living accommodation was pretty inspiring.
The second reason I liked dorm living was the true sense of community that was instilled, even though it might have been a bit forced. In my sophomore dorm, I was the Resident Assistant (RA), the guy everybody usually hates. But instead of being the “guy who gets everyone in trouble” I was a friend, spending my free time in the common room just like any other student living there. I loved the fact that I didn’t come home to an empty house, and that when I arrived, there was always someone sitting in the common room to ask me how my day was going.
As I mentioned, dorm living had its faults (no kitchens, shared bedrooms, waiting to use bathrooms, etc.) but all of its faults are entirely amendable, while still preserving the benefits of its community atmosphere.
Dorm style living also came with unintended benefits that go completely overlooked. In apartment living, there’s no easy way to break outside your friend group. Usually you and your friends hangout at your place, their place, or the bars, with no real interaction with others outside that friend group. By forced interaction, you break outside your friend group simply by being there; creating new friends and relationships you would have never had before. Best friends, romantic relationships, and even business partners have all met on shared living spaces provided by colleges. These relationships wouldn’t have been fostered without forced interaction. All of this occurs while still maintaining privacy.
Then there are the obvious benefits of dorm living, like the all-inclusive payment for rent, utilities, and a bed/desk. This collective payment is usually less expensive than an apartment due to the sharing of resources. Once I moved into an apartment off-campus, I realized that I took this aspect of dorm life for granted. When living in an apartment, you must split various utility bills and figure out who will buy household items like a TV or a microwave. To live in a dorm, all you have to do is show up with a suitcase.
Yet for all its benefits, this living style is usually only accepted by college students (and sometimes individuals who decide to live in a retirement community). Sharing living space is usually viewed as collegiate, and is irregular otherwise. If there was a point to this piece it would be this: as tenants, homeowners, and landlords, we need to stop looking at shared living spaces as a childish living accommodation, or an arrangement that can only exist during the formative college years and is irreplicable after that.
Post-college millennials have already been doing this for a long time. Living with one’s friends while working is obviously not a new concept. But for those like me who find that this model is not enough, thankfully there is already an industry that provides this service: coliving.