Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Open Closet Policy: After College Edition

One of my favorite things about college was having a whole bunch of roommates who were willing to let me borrow stuff. We used to trade clothes and shoes and music and all kinds of stuff, and because we lived in the same apartment, it was really easy to have a nice little community of sharing bliss. In one of my apartments we had an open closet policy where you were welcome to borrow your roommates' clothes if your closet just wasn't working for you - you just needed to wash it or stick it back in their hamper at the end of the day. "What's mine is yours as long as you don't steal my food without asking!" That was pretty much how I felt about most of my roommates. We took care of each other and let everyone borrow our stuff, because in a three bedroom apartment with six girls, there just wasn't enough room for everyone to have everything. It was easier to share when someone needed something, and assume you would be able to borrow stuff when you needed it.

After spending about 7 years in college living situations, I accumulated a lot of former roommates, as well as some good friends who lived across the hall or just upstairs. The real beauty of the social media world, for me, is that I still have some kind of contact with a lot of these people on a semi-regular basis, even if I wouldn't have made regular phone calls to them in another time. I generally know when they get married, get a doctorate, have a kid, land a job, etc. and they know the same kinds of stats about me.  It's nice to be able to keep tabs on people I like and respect, even if I don't call them to pour out my heart every day. (In fact, quite a few of those friends now write for this blog, and our authors live in 8 different states right now.)

But lately I've learned that one of the greatest perks of staying in touch with friends is that there's always someone who is willing to help. When I lived in Indiana, my friend Amanda was doing an epic cross country road trip on her own and needed a place to stay on her way from Ohio to whatever her next stop was. I offered her a couch and a tour of Bloomington's finest cuisine and prettiest places, and then on she went - and I realized that she was a GENIUS. Good company and a free place to stay? Who did I know who lived in an awesome place?

Now, whenever my husband and I go on road trips, it seems like I think of someone I know who lives there or is at least on the way there. For example, we've stayed at fellow blog author Melissa's house several times on our way to California or Arizona (including once about a week after we got married and were moving to Texas but wanted to stop and see my husband's Grandma on the way - she wasn't even home but left us a key). When we go to visit my husband's family in Texas, we almost always stop to see my former roommate Jennie in Albuquerque, either to stay the night or to just stop and stretch our legs and grab a bite. (Jennie is a really good cook. It's hard to turn her down when she offers.)

On our recent trip to San Francisco, we were offered a house to stay in that was totally unfurnished. As we tried to figure out how we would haul an air mattress and pack n' play in addition to our clothes, my husband's equipment, and a toddler, I realized that I had already made plans to visit a couple of friends who stayed in the area - and as it turned out, one let us borrow everything we needed for our little girl, and the other could lend us an air mattress, bedding and towels. We even stayed one night with one of these friends so that we didn't have to get up quite as early for our 6 am flight.

This is my little girl playing in the sand with my friends' little boys in Oakland, CA.

It doesn't stop with vacations either. When my little girl needed a nebulizer and we had terrible insurance, I asked via Facebook if anyone had one we could borrow and was offered THREE outright, plus had several offers of loaners until we could find something more permanent. When I asked for advice about childbirth classes, I received all kinds of helpful comments and messages, and one friend even loaned me the materials from a class she had taken. When I had a 14 month old in the hospital, I received so many offers of help, from people who simply messaged me to let me know we were in their prayers, to people who lived near the hospital who offered to bring us food or spare clothes so we could both stay at the hospital.

We always talk about how social media makes the world so much smaller, but I think one of the best things about that is the fact that it gives us more opportunities to take care of each other, no matter where we live. We can give and receive advice, offer prayers and support for things we wouldn't otherwise know about, share the joy of happy events, and in some cases, we can even physically take care of each other, offering places to stay, suggestions about things to do, supplies to make a trip easier, or even just good company. We can be there for each other no matter where we live.

So friends, thanks for taking care of me. I hope I get lots of chances to take care of you too. My closet is always open.

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