Being part of a shared house allowed me to live a more balanced life

Maybe it’s because our first apartment had to be a garden apartment on the same floor, to keep our pricey family out, or maybe it’s because our parents needed an after-hours babysitter so we could go to dance recitals or take a bath. But there was an element of flexibility, a lot of freedom, an age and mindset that seemed to start resonating as we got older.

I almost didn’t go to college. I worried that if I did, it would follow me into my professional life as a marketing professional, and the lifestyle – the restaurant visits, a pricey pad, the constant worry about moving out. But college changed everything.

When I came back to Toronto, most of my peers were still in college, and they were starting to move out. By the time I was in my 20s, I had worked and lived in countless different environments, and I would find myself returning home as often as I would go to the office.

But there’s a particular aspect to being in a shared house that — luckily for me, it did not still apply — made me feel comfortable living in the city. After living in a couple of places downtown where “people were always forgetting about their shit,” in the early months of my apartment search, I ended up living with five other people around the corner from my mother.

We learned a lot about each other, and I fell in love with my surroundings. Despite being able to go on a lot of dates, I had a luxury most people could only dream of: The freedom of a significant other with no kids. I also had zero mess-ups, no expensive laundry and no washing machines to manage.

I felt protected, and stable and secure as a result, and I knew that getting settled in life would happen — and slowly but surely it did. My job kept me busy and fulfilled, and the benefits of sharing the space and the extra time we had together made me feel fulfilled too.

Then, in 2014, an economic downturn hit Canada, and the city changed more in a year than I had in seven. I was thinking about staying closer to home, but at the same time I needed to get a place, so I moved here.

And although I wasn’t as lucky as many of my peers and didn’t find the perfect place on the same day, I did find a community of people who understood what it was like to be an adult — to save money and live on a salary and take advantage of common sense. That approach is key, especially if you’re going to graduate into Toronto’s housing crisis.

“In Toronto, my university students come from every possible socioeconomic background,” the university that I work for’s associate director for undergraduate career advising, Amy Hurst, told the Toronto Star in 2015. “Our median salary, when we can tie all that together, is $75,000; and our highest university salary that is readily calculable is $80,000,” she said. “And each student is on their own, and tuition is expensive.”

But as it stands, the same article says that if you graduate with $10,000 of student debt — meaning the average amount Canadian grads owe on university loans — you are likely to earn less than $50,000 a year.

Being underpaid and on your own is not healthy, and as stressed and tired as millennials are now, in several ways we don’t have the freedom we need to meet our actual aspirations. Being in a shared house allowed me to explore all the possibilities of what I could be doing in my post-grad life without worrying about financial strains.

This freedom allowed me to not be so wrapped up in the “career” or “job” that I lose sight of who I am as a person. It allowed me to explore things I wouldn’t have otherwise, while I was able to afford it. I don’t think I could have done it without the proximity to my college friends and my ability to trust each other, but it could’ve been a lot more expensive.

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