Dear Harlan, I’m four weeks away from my first day of my first year in college, and I’m going to be living in a college dorm. I just got my roommate assignment, and I need to get in contact with her. What do I write in that first email? – Can’t Write
Dear Can’t Write, Here’s my problem with your message: You’re already too afraid of making a mistake. This is not a make-or-break exchange. You send your roommate a note telling her that you’re looking forward to living together. Tell her you wanted to connect on the phone so you don’t bring the same things to the room. Then talk on the phone and have a conversation. But this probably will be extremely hard for you, too. There is a risk that you might not say the right things to her. Please stop worrying! The only expectation you should have for living with this person is to coexist. Friendship is a bonus. The moment you can shift your expectations from “friend” to “roommate” will be the moment you’ll stop being so afraid of offending her. If you’re already this worried about opening up, imagine how you’ll be when something substantial happens. Make sure you create a life outside of your room so there isn’t this pressure to always say the right thing and do the right thing. The best relationships are based on honesty, trust and mutual respect. Trust that she wants to get along, and respect her enough to have an honest conversation. Now, email or call her so you don’t bring the same stuff.