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Communal Living: The Cure for Creative Ennui

There are some that are just born knowing what to do with their lives. They come out of the womb knowing they want to be a doctor, get the top scores in their class, and go to the best universities. Then there are others who have no idea where life is taking them. They float through life, waiting for a sign to give them the right push in the right direction. Sometimes that sign isn’t an acceptance into the school of your dreams or even a job offer; sometimes it’s just finding the right place to settle. 

A few weeks back after sharing some of my writing online I was introduced to an individual who brought me into the world of communal living. I must admit I was skeptical at first, wondering what grown adult wants to live with 40 other grown adults. As an American, the thought of sharing space with someone who isn’t family seems to be beneath me. After all, having a roommate is what college kids and failed millennials do, at least that’s what the media makes it seem like. But media and reality are two different things. The world of communal living is vast and extends far beyond simply needing a place to stay until I found the perfect apartment. It was exactly the kick I needed to pursue my own ventures. 

Returning to Community

How humans managed to strive so far away from the concept of community is beyond me. During the middle ages, the concept of a nuclear family didn’t exist. Homes were shared among extended family mom, dad, aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as close friends around you. Communal living was more common than nuclear family homes. As the idea of a two-parent household began to take over, the separation from the community started as well.

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Despite being a country that’s reliant on family ties, share houses have become a popular concept in Japan. While originally reserved for foreign expats looking for temporary housing, they started to become a trend among Japanese residents as well. Particularly when tragedy hits, the need to gather and be a part of a large community feels stronger and has compelled many people into communal living spaces. After the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, and now the outbreak of COVID-19, communal living in Tokyo and other large cities is on the rise again.

Share houses are much more than just a living space for young singles, many of them are focused around a theme to bring in the right type of people. Some share houses place a strong emphasis on veganism, outdoor sports, or only catering to a single-gender. The sharehouse I choose is focused on entrepreneurship. Many if not all of the tenets are remote workers and either owns their own business or work as independent contractors. Some are married and are simply taking residence here until their spouse finishes their work contract, while others are in school, but everyone here is hoping to be successful someday. And the layout is conducive to that. The share house doubles as a co-working space, with offices on multiple floors. There is even another co-working space across town with special access for residents as well.

After facing unbelievable levels of isolation and loneliness in Japan, it seemed fitting to make a move into a more communal space. There were days when I wouldn’t talk to a single person, and if it wasn’t for work I probably wouldn’t have many friends. Although I don’t consider myself a people person, even I had to admit that the levels of isolation I was feeling wasn’t healthy and I needed to make a change before something traumatic happened. I also wanted to be relieved of certain adult responsibilities including paying a multitude of bills or dealing with rude landlords.

The hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is that there often isn’t a person to mentor you through the challenges of venturing off on your own. My parents never started a business, and none of my friends have any business ventures of their own. Moving into the sharehouse gave me access to a variety of people not only from different backgrounds but also have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. Sharing my ideas of blogging, writing, and marketing has shown my housemates that I’m serious about my ventures and has left an opening for me to come along for different opportunities.

Overcoming Anxiety

By far the hardest thing about living in a sharehouse is overcoming my aversion to socialization. I’m introverted and shy around people I don’t know very well so constantly meeting and seeing people every single day is a lot for me to take in. On my first day in there was a party that I tried to avoid but ended up being called into the common room to share a few drinks. Every hour of every day there’s someone in the kitchen and while you don’t have to talk, it’s rude to not at least acknowledge the other person in the room

Each person gets their own designated space in the bathroom and fridge but it’s still a chore to claim a space for yourself. Every item must be labeled or else it’ll be thought of as common amenities. Finding time to yourself in the gym or in the common areas requires some careful planning. Being in a sharehouse is forcing me to take up space and speak up for myself in my own living space. I have a tendency to shrink myself around others because I try to blend in or keep from ruffling any feathers, but I deserve to be her just as much as the next person. I might not be the most extroverted person here but that doesn’t mean that my presence should be overlooked.

Although I’m still in my first month in the share house, I’d say overall this was a perfect move. Being around others more than anything is exactly the thing I need to survive this pandemic.

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