I Live Near My Friends
I live in a Brooklyn loft with four excellent friends, and have a wealth of space and solitude
Hello, I’m Daniel. On June 1, 2022, I moved into a co-living arrangement in Brooklyn; now I share an apartment with four best friends, with tens more living within a short walk.
But when I tell people how I live, they sometimes balk at “roommates,” “co-living,” or “Brooklyn.” So I’m going to explain why this kind of life is not only enjoyable, but an achievement one should hope to earn.
Conceptions about “roommates” are incorrectly anchored
There are a variety of status scoring systems that ding you for having roommates past college. Roommates mean you are poor, and can’t afford to live by yourself. Roommates mean you aren’t in control of your space. Roommates mean you can’t have ~romantic company~ over as easily. Roommates mean mess, domestic intransigence, noise, and crowding.
Or do they?
Our cultural and personal portraits of “roommates” are heavily influenced by college and that broader young period of life—which is to say, those sketches are of people at their least conscientious and with a weak grip on independence. And when we remember our own worst roommate experiences, they were often bad because we did not have the financial means to go elsewhere, or the social wherewithal to correct personal conflicts.
These experiences don’t originate from co-living itself, but from broader life conditions that force, trick, or trap people into co-living badly. But you can choose and learn to do it well. Which leads me to my next points…
Live with people who take living seriously
Obvious twists of fate aside, we are all responsible for how our lives turn out. The most general, yet revealing, thing I can say about my roommates is that they believe this in their bones. If their life will be excellent, it will be by their own hand. If it will be grievous, the wound will be self-inflicted. They will not settle.
They refuse to work jobs they hate (but justify by any means) for dazzling amounts of money. This is a basic failure of living as common as breathing in New York. As a result, they are psychologically more well-adjusted than usual.
They work persistently to discover their own craft, project, and broader life purpose—all while keeping an eye to their bank accounts to ensure personal stability. You can do both. Purpose does not have to mean poverty, although it sometimes requires financial modesty.
They have a significant, positive impact on the world that will, in my estimation, grow stupendously. They are atypically kind. They are in the business of judging, and judging well.
They realize that as long as you don’t die and keep showing up, you have won 99% of the battle and outcompeted almost everyone.
They take good risks, and avoid dangerous comforts.
A “good roommate” is not one you barely notice. A good roommate is strapped to the rocket right beside you. And mine have, by creating The Neighborhood NYC and by investing their esteem in me, helped launch my life’s work, Maximum New York. Dear reader, I would shake you violently by the lapels if it would help you understand that I live with excellent people, and you shouldn’t have to settle for less yourself. Endeavor mightily to live among such as these.
Peace, solitude, separation
Prior to moving in with my friends, I lived in a studio apartment on the Upper West Side by myself. I had peace, enjoyable solitude (which I prefer to poor company), and ordered my apartment just how I liked.
None of this has changed since my move, or has only changed very little. This is due to the fact that living by yourself doesn’t guarantee silence, peace, or enjoyability, even though people mistakenly conflate those things. Dogs, street noise, and other decibelic externalities can find you anywhere, even a one-bedroom. So getting silence is much more about what you deliberately do and accept than how many people you live with:
First of all, I take proactive measures to ensure the peace and quiet that I like; life does not owe you silence, even if you need it. I own a pair of Sony noise-cancelling headphones. They, and ones like them, cost an annoying amount (around $250). It’s enough to make people not buy them, but if you consider the value they deliver over years, it’s an easy purchase.
Second of all, my roommates are conscientious people who aren’t loud in the first place, and I wouldn’t live with them if they were otherwise. They also all go to bed before midnight, although when they go to sleep exactly is a mystery that can only be pieced together by monitoring when their Twitter DMs and Discord messages stop.
Third of all, I stay up well past midnight, so I have many hours of guaranteed silence by virtue of being the only one who’s awake on our whole floor.
Fourth of all, since none of us have traditional jobs, we are often out of the apartment at different intervals. We’re home together too, but not all the time.
Last of all, we live in a large loft apartment. Besides our own bedrooms, there’s plenty of space. Although New York City housing prices are horrendous (I’m working on it), it’s still quite possible to find commodious, sociable living.
Order reigns in an apartment of five
I live with one domestic prince and a collection of everyone else (one of whom is often not even home) that goes happily along with his orderly ways. We all recognize that the apartment must be clean, although no one will explode if it gets a bit disorganized.
We also don’t share food by default, and each of us has our own fridge and shelf space. This makes sharing easier and more joyful when we do it, which is often.
Whatever you have heard about roommates being terrible domestic allies, it is not true in The Neighborhood NYC. Why? As I continue to say: you can merely choose to live with great people.
On the topic of Brooklyn
Look, some people have incorrect ideas about which borough is best to live in—and this mostly manifests in their flat refusal to live in various of them. But I will go to any borough and be happy about it, sometimes all in the same day. They’re all good. All have trade-offs. None has everything.
To such an extent as is possible, you should live in a place that helps you find, discover, and sustain what is meaningful in life. This is your metric, not trendiness, outmoded ideas about what is a “good part of town,” or your own fear to explore someplace new.
When I lived by myself, I chose the Upper West Side. And that still remains my favorite neighborhood as far as built environments go. It’s flanked by Central Park and the Hudson River/Riverside Park, and has lovely, tall apartment buildings. But where I live now, where I will live for years, is great too. And it has things the Upper West Side doesn’t have: The Neighborhood NYC, the people who founded it, and the people who are drawn to it.
So, when everything is weighed, Brooklyn is my deliberate choice. I’m not sure what could even compete in this calculus with the people I’ve chosen to live with, even the Upper West Side.
I’ve had a lot of terrible living situations in my life, but I’ve also been quite willing to move and adjust course. If you take this approach more broadly, and expand it to your social spheres as well, you’ll eventually find superb people worth living with—and you will become someone worth living with too.
If you want what I have (and many people do), you need to be brave, and you need to recognize the reward of discomfort. Obtaining a proper fit in lifestyle and social sphere is not easy, otherwise we would all have it. It’s not exactly something you “find,” although that’s the way most people erroneously pursue it. It’s something you build. That means you have to be willing to move, willing to judge, willing to be judged, willing to give different ways of living (apartment arrangement, cohabitants, neighborhoods, and more) a proper trial.
This is not living recklessly, but it can be living breathlessly. It’s the glory of the sprint, the trial of human vigor against reality. Eventually you will find your people and your resting place, and then you can all set off down the track together.