• Hannah Cartwright

University Life Part 8: Peeing with the Door Open

Peeing with the Door Open

Home is something that is really important to me. As a child, I moved around a lot. Sometimes even twice in the space of a year. To date, I have lived in ten different houses, a number that is only going to grow over the next few years. I actually do really enjoy moving and love the opportunity to redesign my room over and over again. However, these moves are only exciting if I can make the place feel like home when I get there, which hasn’t always been the case.

Part of the deal with being a student is the yearly house change, moving from one semi-functional house to, if you’re lucky, a slightly more functional house. Only in student accommodation would you find a light switch that only works if you flick it three times, a bathroom window that has to be propped open by an empty shampoo bottle, and a washing machine that occasionally refuses to give you back your clothes. Knowing that each house is only temporary is what kept me sane throughout each one. It didn’t matter that something wasn’t quite right, because in less than a year it would no longer be my problem. But because of this, I also didn’t give the house a chance to be my home. There would always be parts of it I resented yet did nothing about.

In first year, I spent less than nine months living in Halls sharing bunk beds. Our room was tiny and made to feel even smaller as every space had to be split down the middle and shared; half a desk, half a wardrobe, half a bathroom cupboard. We quickly learnt the importance of compromise and communication and neither of us ever complained or found fault with our little room. But it wasn’t really a home – just a space to work and sleep in.

Second and third year was the closest I felt to being at home during my time at Uni. We lived in this same house for two years, longer than I lived in quite a few of my family’s homes. The house overall had a much homelier feel to it than our clinical style rooms in Halls. But for me, my bedroom was the biggest highlight.

From the very first moment I saw it, I yelled ‘dibbs!’ It was the attic room in our large seven-bedroom home in town. It was high enough above the rest of the house that I could shut myself away when I needed to and enjoy a few moments of peace. But it was also big enough to host all my housemates for impromptu house gatherings where we would somehow manage to squeeze six of us in and around my bed. It was the room Lois and I binged many a Netflix series, eating unhealthy amounts of chocolate and crisps. It was the room where Ben and I first admitted that we had feelings for each other. Then it was the first bedroom we shared together as a couple.

In the shape of an L, the room could be divided into two sections: my work area and my sleeping area, separated by my en-suite. (One of the biggest selling points of the room.) My work area comprised of my desk, complete with a tea station because being two floors above the kitchen, my tea would surely be cold by the time I got it back up there. It was underneath the skylight, so on sunny days I could work and feel the warmth of the sun shining down. And on cold, miserable days I could wrap a blanket over my shoulders, cradle my tea and feel comforted in the fact that I wasn’t outside. I would sit with my back to the rest of the room so as not to be tempted by the nest behind me.

Tucked into the corner of my bedroom was my bed / sleeping cove. Adorned in fairy lights, it gave off a warm and inviting glow each evening, almost always convincing me to have an early night. By the end of the two years, Ben and I had covered the wall behind it in our photos taken on his sixty-three-year-old film camera. The other wall, above our pillows, hosted a growing collection of memories we’d made together; tickets, notes to each other, and a giant scratch map waiting to be filled. If I ever had a bit of a crap day, curling up here with the fairy lights on and a huge mug of chamomile and honey tea cradled between my hands would instantly make me feel better. But as much as I loved it, I knew it wasn’t permanent.

With changing courses, I was a year behind all my housemates. So, while they were preparing to move back home and start hunting for jobs in the real world, I was looking for my next student house. I spent two weeks trekking back and forth across town in the mid-January drizzle, viewing house after house, each one crappier and mouldier than the last. I eventually settled on a little four bed; modern and well looked after, it was the least ‘studenty’ of them all. I would be moving in with three other girls, none of whom I knew very well at the time.

This house is where I realised that home isn’t about how long you’re there for and how many photos you have up on the walls. It’s about the people who come and make it feel like home. The month I moved in, I said a lot of goodbyes; my sister, who had been living on the other side of town, moved halfway across the country to pursue a new career. (Not as bad as the time she spontaneously moved to Australia – but thankfully that didn’t last long!) My Uni friends and housemates moved to various parts of the country, scattered from Cornwall to Hull. Along with Ben, who moved to Bristol.

I’d created a home around these people who I felt so comfortable with. We could fart in the kitchen, we could pee with the bathroom door open, we could nap in each other’s beds. We could communicate by making weird noises at each other. We would laugh until we were snorting. Without them, I felt like I was holding back little bits of myself, concerned that these new housemates wouldn’t share the same sense of humour. I worried about walking from the bathroom to my bedroom in just a towel. I fretted that I hadn’t locked the bathroom door.

I found that I could get used to the space I was in pretty quickly. I unpacked, hung the fairy lights, and even bought some curtains. But I missed the family atmosphere that I’d been so lucky to have in all my previous houses. There was that level of politeness you have with those ‘sort of’ friends that just never went away. We never had that comfortable feeling of being able to be 100% ourselves around each other. And that was the thing I needed the most. To feel comfortable in my home.

I’m looking forward to building this feeling again as Ben and I move back in together in a few weeks. Our flat isn’t going to be the nicest and we’re going to have a fraction of the space we shared in our attic bedroom. But the most important thing for me is to be back living with someone I can be myself around. To have someone who says good morning and good night to me, who offers me a cup of tea when I walk through the door. But who also laughs at farts and pees with the door open.

Click here for part 1!

Click here for part 9!  

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