The Communal House

Life altering lessons learned from four very different people brought together under one roof…

First things first: this was not a communal house in the way many of you may instinctively think when you hear that phrase. It was not a co-op or a commune. The  permanent residents most likely do not even consider it this. But this is the most fitting way to describe the experience of living here in my eyes.

The home consisted of two rooms with bunk beds, one private room, a shared kitchen, a shared bathroom, and a living room. There were two permanent residents: the home owner who resided in one of the shared rooms and the house keeper who stayed in the living room. The rest of the rooms were filled with tenants accumulated from the Airbnb and Couchsurfing websites. From my experience, some came for the weekend, some stayed for as long as a half a year depending on their needs. I was here for a little over two weeks.

I call this a communal home because of the environment that was fostered here. People from all over the world with different lifestyles, beliefs, and reasons for staying were brought together under one roof. And the hosts were pros at handling it- there were even color coated shelves in the kitchen explaining what was okay for guests to use, what could be used and replaced, and what was off limits. There were signs all over the house on where to find resources and how to go about cleaning and maintaining different areas.

I always thought it would be interesting to stay in a place like this, but I didn’t quite understand how much it would push me to question societal norms, my own personal morals, and how to handle ethical grey areas in general… such as writing this post. I am aware that the people I meet may read what I write about my experiences with them and I sometimes fear that by writing in a completely open and honest manner that I may exploit them, hurt their feelings, or bring to surface matters that they hadn’t considered. However on the other end of the scale I feel I am not doing anyone any justice by not sharing these experiences and the insights I have gained through them- after all that is the entire point of writing about my travels isn’t it?

So after much thought on what is motivating me to write this (to gain traffic on my page, or to share a growth experience that can help others to learn and grow as well and actually manifest a positive change in society, or even in one person) I have decided to go ahead. For the people I am going to talk about are people that I admire- they are being the most authentic and genuine versions of themselves and are bettering the world because of it.

The first individual I got close to here taught me that society is way to strict in the way it judges and penalizes people. This is something I already knew but to see it first hand definitely made a lasting impression. He did not mean to teach me this. In fact, he meant to teach me just about everything else in the world. Technology, auto mechanics, cannabis operations, food sourcing, machinery, medicinal herbs, the origin of coffee, the corruption in corporate business. The man is an absolute genius; undoubtedly one of the smartest people I have ever met. He was unforgivably kind, giving, and resourceful beyond a doubt. Put this man in charge of ANYTHING and it will thrive. And I’m sure he will find a way to improve the world around him in the process.

So why doesn’t he run some sort of world-altering operation by now? Or I mean heck, why not let the man be president? Well, he was a victim of identity fraud. Someone else did a crime and he now pays the consequences, as do the rest of us. Yet his spirit? Not crushed in the least. He does not play the victim role in the slightest. He still remains to be confidently himself, and uses his resourcefulness to get by. If only our society cared to work out the kinks in the legal system instead of just letting individuals such as him fall through the cracks. He is not the first I have met in this scenario and I’m sure he will not be the last, but he sure is the one that sticks out the most to me.

The next individual here taught me, unknowingly again, to push past your limitations and to be comfortable in your own skin. Some people view having differences as a negative, and some people view it as an opportunity. This individual took the latter. This person had a pretty persistent stutter. The science behind this is that when some people hear themselves speak, their brains interpret the words coming in at the wrong speed. This throws them off, and messes with their ability to generate speech. Not the most scientific version of the explanation, but you get the gist. So this man brings a phone technology to people with this same interpreting difference that allows them to hear a version of someone else’s speech at the appropriately slowed down frequency to inhibit the process that causes the stutter.  Now say someone has difficulty working doing office or maybe sales type of work. They can now go about their work confidently. Finding a way to bring ease to others living life with the same circumstances as you is a really inspirational choice and its a career that  I’m sure makes you feel good every single day.

And it seemed to do just that. Though he was analytic and very particular, he was always bright and jolly. He would jump out of bed every day eager to get going, which typically started with a birdwatching hike with Sarge, the house dog. He always looked super nifty decked out in what can be most closely described as a laid back version of the old wild west saloon clothing.

As for how he inadvertently taught me to be comfortable in my own skin, well that’s a story in and of itself. We went to see an interpretive theater and dance show at an alternative study university in the area. Our mode of transportation? Tandem bike. When I casually informed him it was my first time on a tandem, and I actually have only ridden a bicycle once in the past ten or so years, he wanted to take every precaution to make sure I felt safe. So now picture me pulling up into this alternative university swarmed with cool hipster art types full speed on a tandem in helmet, reflective orange and yellow vest, flashing red reflector light hooked to the back of my jeans, and fancy new age looking shoes with clips in the bottom to lock into the pedals that click like game pieces when you walk on the pavement and leave you slipping and sliding on the tile floor inside. For those readers that don’t personally know me, I can be very awkward in public. Those who know me are dying laughing picturing me in this scenario right now. It gets better. Even I couldn’t help but laugh at myself when he had to hop off and run the bike, with me attached, across the street at an intersection and a stoner looking kid yells out the car window “hey man, it usually works better when you ride it”.

But it was so fun zooming down the hills and somehow managing to just barely stay up right around the tight corners of the backwoods path we took. Beautiful landscapes of trees, stone formations, and the rushing creek zoomed by as my legs were swung round and round at serious speed with absolutely no control from me. The fun highly outweighed the minuscule amount of irrational embarrassment that was associated the situation, which is usually the case in life.

There are two more characters who taught me life lessons without even trying that I met from this home. One is a well studied Buddhist who teaches at a local meditation center, which is completely irrelevant to the story but a fact I found really cool. The other is an eccentric, outgoing, extremely generous, and caring transgender. This individual is the definition of being comfortable in your own skin. She seemed to be in a dance everywhere she went and radiating with positive energy.

The three of us walked to a nearby pizza shop that sold giant slices of pizza after doing a short meditation at the house. On the way there I noticed people staring and very obviously looking at my new friend which really upset me, people should embrace those people that are solid enough in their belief of who they are to go out into the world and share it with everyone. I had never had an experience where I had to deal, semi-vicariously of course, with this much public judgement and attention just walking down the street. I looked to the Buddhist to see if it was distracting him as well, but found him intently listening to the story being told. It seemed as if he lived within a secured realm and everything else going on around him was not of importance. Clearly his meditative work had made him into a wise person and awarded him the ability to stay strictly in the moment.

And that’s the moment they taught me as a team to focus on only what truly matters. I thought this person was fantastic. And you can’t help others thoughts, feelings, or reactions. And that’s all that truly matters.

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