It’s been my dream to live in New York City for a long time. Right before the pandemic I moved to Manhattan to be roommates with “Anita,” a friend from college of which we are both recent graduates. I saved for months to get the money ready for the move and managed to find a decent job so I’m good for my side of the rent. Then the pandemic hit. Anna decided that New York wasn’t for her after all and moved back to her parents’ mansion in Connecticut. Her parents have a lot of money so she has been paying her side of the rent but now she wants to stop. She is telling me I have to either break the lease or find another roommate. The problem is Anita found this apartment and it has a huge master bedroom so she pays a lot more rent. I don’t know any other people who could cover her side and I’m afraid to live with a stranger during a pandemic. Besides that, moving is expensive in New York and I’d have to save to get first month’s rent, last month’s rent and deposit together again. I really feel Anita has put me in an impossible situation and I’m so angry at her. What can I do?
Trying to Survive
Dear Trying to Survive,
You are young. You did everything right and set up moving toward the life you wanted with care and diligence. You saved and budgeted. You found a roommate you trusted who shared your dream. You got a job. Everything was working. And then the world and your wealthier roommate threw you curveballs.
Welcome to real life where you can do everything how you are supposed to and still not get the outcome you expected or wanted. How you handle this situation can give you all the skills, resilience and wisdom people need to live well.
From what you described you have two problems threatening your happiness. First you need a solution to the economic realities of New York rent. Second, the anger and resentment you feel at Anita can rob you of happiness and time.
It sounds like your attempt to persuade Anna to honor the commitment she made to you and the lease have failed. You can absolutely say that if she wants out, it is her responsibility to find an acceptable roommate. Of course, you can’t make her follow through on her commitments so let’s assume she is leaving you high and dry. There are still a lot of things you can do.
First, a pandemic has hit and a lot of people are renegotiating their rents. Reach out to your landlord and attempt to do the same. If you need advice, there are a ton of articles about how to do this in your city. Search for the resources with the same diligence you used to move to New York and see what you can do.
At the same time, you are not the first New Yorker to need a new roommate in a hurry. You can find a roommate you feel good about if you are organized and interview possible replacements over a video conference call. First put feelers out through your whole network. There is a good chance a friend of a friend will be looking. Be clear about your house rules concerning pandemic precautions. You are on the lease and they will not be so you get to set the rules right now and only accept a new roommate who is on the same page.
Finally, anger and resentment are two emotions that will head off any chance you have at happiness. Let go of Anita. I mean that both emotionally and in your life. You don’t need people in your life who act selfishly and don’t honor their commitments. There are many such people in the world and letting them go once they reveal who they are to you will be a big part of having a good life.
Let your anger at her go. New York City in 2020 is not what either of you signed up for. It’s natural she’d like to be somewhere else and she has the resources to skedaddle and come back anytime she wants. Let her go wherever she wants to be. Ask her for reasonable accommodations as she goes and let her follow her bliss. If she makes good, she has revealed she has character and you can catch up with her later. If she leaves you high and dry, I promise you will have the chance to meet new and better friends in New York. Her being gone will free up space and time for new friendships. Finding out who someone is, quickly, is a blessing because you don’t have to waste too much of life on a fair-weather friend.
Go out from here with your eyes open. Life will throw you more curve balls. That’s what life is, a chaotic place where plans go awry often. Your job is to get good at adjusting in real time to what life throws at you. Accept what you cannot change and make preparations for the rest. Then get back to the dreams that make you happy. Life is short and you’ll lose your dreams if you waste your time on anger.
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About This Advice Column
Ask Death is loosely inspired by an ancient Stoic spiritual exercise called The View From Above. It’s about looking at your problems from a larger perspective. When done well, this perspective leads to transformation of our views on the world, deeper meaning and equanimity where before there was confusion and stress. We know The View From Above works so we’d like to share it with you in this advice column. Also, getting advice from death is hilarious and fun. This is content you don’t want to miss before you die. Its a new column, so if you like it, tell your friends or even sign up for the extra content.
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Hey Death! I’m close by all the time. What do you think should put me in the right frame of mind if I’m alone?