The cool grayness of the concrete on which I was standing matched the lonely feelings growing inside of me. It was my first day—in fact my first hour—at THE DORM, and I had contracted a severe case of homesickness.
“Why have I come so far away?” I moaned to myself. “Why did I let my father just drive away and leave me here?”
Here was May Hall, and I was beginning my freshman year at Brigham Young University. I soon discovered that most of the others on my floor felt similar apprehensions (“We can always transfer to the state university at semester time,” we comforted ourselves), yet at semester time none of us transferred. And by the time spring came, despite our excitement to go home and visit our families and hometowns, we left our roommates tearfully. During the course of only eight months, we had made lifelong and eternal kinds of friendships.
When I think back on my freshman year now, I remember Mary and Suzanne and the pizza they had delivered to their first-floor window so that the rest of us wouldn’t know they were breaking their diets. I remember five of us dragging Christmas trees to the dorm from the grocery store four blocks away. I remember the fun of sharing care packages from home, and eating crackers with Linda on the grassy lawn of Helaman Halls. I remember fasting together and kneeling in prayer with all the girls on my floor.
By the time I graduated from college, I had had 18 roommates (not counting the other 35 girls on my floor my freshman year), and more important, 18 girls I considered my lifelong friends. Looking back I realize my roommates and I became close because we shared so many things together. We had to learn a lot about sacrifice, giving, and working things out. There had been some tears, some moments of frustration, some sadness. But through it all, we had discovered the beauty in each other and the joy that comes from loving the people you live with.
Most of us leave home sometime, whether it is to live in an apartment or a dormitory at college, to attend Scout camp or youth conference, to become married, or to go on a mission. In preparation, there are many attitudes and habits we can develop now in our own homes to make the experiences we will have away from home among our happiest.
Following are some of the things you can do to make the days nicer and the memories sweeter today as well as when you do leave home.
1. If you are not already an accomplished cook, learn to prepare a few simple meals and become acquainted with a basic cookbook and some favorite recipes. Ask your mother to let you have a night every now and then when you are responsible for dinner. In addition, be supportive of your brothers and sisters—whether their specialty is grilled cheese sandwiches or an Italian casserole with homemade garlic bread. Help mealtime to be a pleasant time of sharing thoughts and experiences and it will be easy to take these same attitudes with you when you live away from home.
“The meals my roommates and I shared at college weren’t always like mom would have made,” said one girl from Ricks College, “but the love we shared around the table was a lot like home. As we eagerly ate the food, we talked about life, love, basketball games, chemistry, the guys in the branch, snow, the gospel. Mealtimes became some of our favorite times together.” She added with a smile, “I have a lot of fond memories of bologna pizzas and Sunday afternoon dinners!”
2. Cooking also means cleaning up. Perhaps more needless disharmony in apartments, camps, dorms, and homes comes from leaving the kitchen in a mess and failing to do the dishes than from any other source. And while a drinking glass and empty soup bowl lying in the sink may seem like a small infraction, to the roommate, friend, or companion who is always washing them, this can easily become a sore spot between the two of you. Develop the habit now of putting items away as you use them, of rinsing dishes and soaking pans before they get sticky and hard, and of taking your turn in washing the dinner dishes—even if homework and other activities seem more pressing. Life will be just as busy when you go away to school, get married, or leave for your mission, so it is important now to learn to budget your time responsibly and wisely.
3. Do your share in keeping your home clean in other ways as well. Vacuum the rug after cutting out a pattern or repotting a plant in the front room. Dispose of the peelings instead of leaving them in the sink all day. Empty the trash instead of starting to fill a second bag. Wash out the shower when you are finished with it. The old maxim “It’s easier to keep up than to catch up” is especially true when it comes to housecleaning.
4. When you move away from home, you may have roommates or companions who seldom allow themselves enough time to put things away, wash the dishes, or dust the furniture. You may even be in an apartment where no one seems to do his or her share. If this becomes the case, suggest and follow through with an apartment council. (After all, it worked at home, didn’t it?) Here discuss your different viewpoints and ideas, and agree on some guidelines for apartment orderliness. Many apartments find that a rotating chart of household duties (empty the garbage, mop the floor, etc.) works well.
You will need to remember, too, that you will probably be living with people who have had a variety of upbringings and backgrounds, and a certain amount of compromise will be necessary. Don’t become so set in your own ways of doing things that you will be inflexible when living with others who have their own ways, too. Do all you can in your homes now to maintain a spirit of cooperation and helpfulness and you will be able to carry this with you when you leave.
5. In addition, learn a few other basic household skills. For example, do you know which buttons to push on the washing machine to get your clothes clean, how much bleach to use, and when to put in the fabric softener? Are you familiar with how to clean an oven and defrost a refrigerator? Have you ever changed a vacuum cleaner bag? Become familiar with all these skills and you won’t be confused later. It’s a good idea to study every appliance in your home now and learn its function. Collect a small supply of common household tools (screwdriver, wrench, hammer, etc.) and learn the function of each. Also, get your father to show you how to change a washer on a leaky faucet, a tire on a car, and how to put on chains if you are going where there will be snow.
Sandra, a BYU Relief Society president, told the following story. “I got up one morning and went out to my car. The tire was flat. Luckily it was Saturday and I didn’t have to be anywhere right away, so I called my home teacher and asked him if he could come over and fix it for me. He said sure, and a while later, there he was at my doorstep. I walked out to the parking lot with him, all set to give him moral support and compliments on his chivalry in coming to my rescue. Was I surprised when, upon arriving at my car, he handed me the jack and said, ‘Okay, Sandra, this is your car. You had better learn how to change a tire.’ At the time I wasn’t so sure I agreed with his reasoning, but I did change the tire! And I’m kind of glad now that I know how.”
6. Another area of importance is that of developing correct money skills. Become a budgeter and a saver, a planner with your pennies. It is never too soon to devise a system of weekly budgeting, including a certain amount (no matter how little you feel you can spare) for savings. Then when you leave home and have to pay your rent and telephone bills, buy your own food, and contribute to the ward budget, you will be able to do so skillfully and with confidence.
Another very important area of preparation is that of becoming a friendly, supportive person to live with. Treat your family members with respect and consideration. If you plan on having friends over, let the other members of your family know. Build each other rather than dwell on weaknesses. Especially do not criticize family members to your friends. An education major at BYU related this experience: “My roommate Dave asked me if I had noticed how messy our other roommate Jerry was. Well, to tell you the truth, I really hadn’t. But after he mentioned it, I did begin noticing. In fact, it really started bothering me. I realized then how harmful it can be to criticize others.”
Elder Milton R. Hunter once stressed that “the measure of a people’s happiness comes in proportion to the amount of love they have in their hearts for their fellowmen” (Conference Report, Oct. 1966, p. 39). What a difference it makes when we seek to better ourselves by lifting others with us rather than pushing them down to make ourselves look better. Just as we want the love and support of others, they also need and want it from us.
8. Share the good times, but also share the bad. Some of the loneliest moments in life come when you have to feel crummy all by yourself. The heartaches, the all-night term papers, the unexpected expenses—all these unwelcome events are made a little more bearable when you can talk about them. I remember one Saturday evening after my roommates and I had all returned from a fireside. Suddenly, Carol was standing in the hallway with tears streaming down her cheeks. As we clustered around her, she said softly, “Sometimes don’t you just feel like crying?” We agreed, and pretty soon we were all there crying together. Thanks to a roommate who wasn’t afraid to be herself and share her emotions, our apartment grew a little closer that night.
In your homes now, let your parents and your brothers and sisters see your lows as well as your highs. Everyone feels a little blue now and then, and just knowing that someone cares and understands makes those times pass more quickly. Of course, this doesn’t mean you dwell on or emphasize the hard times—it just means you admit having them.
9. Encourage your family to have prayer together. No matter how many excuses come up for neglecting this, remember instead the words of Alma: “Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, midday, and evening” (Alma 34:21). Even if not all of you are members of the Church, still make the suggestion. A Ricks College student shared this experience: “When I returned home for the summer after my first year at school, I began to feel guilty that our family did not ask the blessing on the food. It had become a habit for me at Ricks, and now I missed it very much. I wanted to ask my parents if we could say the blessing on our evening meal, but for some reason I was very nervous about it. When I did work up the courage, I was surprised to find that everyone readily accepted the idea. That evening we said a blessing and have been saying one ever since. I now feel that the reason it was so hard to bring up the subject was because Satan knew what a positive and strengthening effect it would have—and has had—on our family. I feel a peacefulness in our home now that wasn’t entirely there before.”
You will find when you go away from home that kneeling together and humbly asking the Lord for help in resolving differences will bring a calmness into your apartment. Those moments of prayer together will help you to grow in love for each other and will set the pattern for continued family prayer in your own homes in later years.
10. Remember that you and those you live with—whether it is your family, or roommates, or companions—are a team and have much to offer and gain from each other. While at home, do as many things with your family as you can; although school activities and doing things with your friends are important, the closeness and memories you have developed with your family will count most in later years.
Then when you do go away, get to know those with whom you live. Attend your meetings together, and plan activities with each other. You may room with people from many different backgrounds. Some will be easier to get to know than others; you will have more in common with some than with others. But working together and striving to create a spirit of harmony and love will bring you some of your happiest moments, and you will be able to say to your roommates, your companion, or your family members, with true conviction, “Ye are they whom my Father hath given me; ye are my friends” (D&C 84:63).