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Letter 9: My Mexican Roommate

January 16, 2011

To motivate myself to write letters I had bought a batch of six international stamps when I arrived in Lisbon. Then on Wednesday morning my employer asked me to come back to Switzerland the next day. I still had two stamps that I hadn’t used: one of them was for the letter to Virginie, so there was only one left and had to decide quickly to whom I wanted to send it. I looked at my list of 101 names (actually 123 now, this gives me a little bit of choice) and decided it was a good time to send a letter to one of my former roommates in Montreal, Jesus.

The beginning of 2010 was a bit of a rough time in my personal life. I was living with my girlfriend and we just broke up the week before Valentine’s day, so I started looking for an apartment. One of the ads took me to a big apartment where 4 guys were living: three Mexicans and an older man from Ontario.

One of them quickly made a nice impression on me, he had a warm smile and just seemed really honest and down to earth. We chatted a little bit and when I asked him what he was doing for a living he said: “I’m a life coach, I help people to improve some aspects of their lives and get more out of living”. Now that was an interesting coincidence! My life felt like a mess and I was sure I’d appreciate any advice that would help me improve it. He also said “We like to party”. I was not a party-goer and neither were my friends, but this was a time when I really wanted to hang out with people, blow some steam, and avoid occasions to ruminate about what I could or should have done. Plus I did not have time to look for too many apartments and this one was just disorganized enough so I would fit in perfectly.

So you said you like to party? Hmm, I wonder
what’s my first clue.

So that’s how we met. When I moved in my new roommates gave me a hand to bring my stuff and furniture up the stairs, which is a nice way to make someone feel welcome. The guys really included me in their activities too, we went watching hockey, eating out for breakfast, etc. and when they talked about enjoying parties they weren’t lying. The good thing was that three Coors Light usually were enough to give me a surprising buzz. Of course we never stopped at three and our Sundays were often dedicated to untagging pictures on facebook and taking all the empty pizza boxes out of our rooms (we were not necessarily in shape to do a lot more, shame on us). Anyway, we created lots of nice memories (and some more shameful ones I admit) and this really was a catalyst in our friendship.

Of course we also did some more meaningful things, like playing soccer, making water fights in the apartment and making barbecue in Mont Royal. You know, things grown ups do. But there is something that really strikes you when you know someone like Jesus is that whatever he does, however insignificant something seems to be, he always looks like he’s having the time of his life. He used to tell me “If you act like you’re happy you’ll feel happier. Your brain does not know the difference”. I tried that and it works, the only hard thing is actually convincing you that you’re in a great mood, but once that small step is taken it’s very easy to feel this kind of “synthetized happiness”.

Water fight in the apartment?
At least we mopped the floor for once!

One of the best examples of this  is when the Montreal Canadiens won against Washington in the play-offs: he had not seen the game, did not know who the players were, and actually woke up because of the noise we made after the game (my roommates were heavy sleepers, there once was an earthquake and they didn’t even feel it), but now when I look at the pictures we took that night, he looks like a hardcore fan who had been waiting for this moment to show the world how happy he was. He’s in the middle of the other fans, just having a darn good time.

He also said: “When you want to laugh, laugh your heart out and you’ll see how great it feels. Incidentally, you’ll also laugh more often”. And he was so so right. I now surprise myself laughing out loud in front of a TV show even when I’m alone, and it feels really good.

These are not the only things I learned from him. He is one of the least judgemental persons I know. When he meets someone new he does not make any snap judgements – like I sometimes do- and talks to them to see if they have anything in common or if he can learn something new. Once a guy started talking to us on the bus. I’m pretty conventional when it comes to communicating in public transportation: no talking, except if you have to get information (or give information to someone). If a stranger talks to me it’s a bit disturbing and I just assume he’s disturbed. But my roommate wasn’t like that: he talked with the guy, and when he got off the bus said that he was cool. Second big lesson he taught me: “Try to learn from everyone you meet, a stranger is just a potential friend”. (I know I’m probably paraphrasing Will Rogers here).

We also had this cool system where we would share each other books that we liked. There’s a world of wisdom in some books, and I realize I’m quoting my roommate once again but I just found this post-worthy: I had given him one of my favorite books and when he returned it he said “There’s a saying that says that the person who lends a book is stupid, but even more stupid is the one who gives it back. Thanks for making me discover this book”.

Thanks for helping me grow man!
Photo by louids

Finally, here’s why it was more than fitting to write this letter to him (this is one of the most disorganized posts on this blog so far, but at least I did remember to put the most important point in the end for once). On his 29th birthday, we were in his room talking when I noticed a list of goals taped to his wall. Above, he had written “2010, the best year ever”. I asked him about it and here’s how he explained it:

“2005 was the worst year of my life. I was depressed for most of the year and never felt like my situation could improve. But on New Year’s Eve, I looked back and decided I never ever wanted to look back at a year again and feel like it had been a disaster. So I made a pact with myself that 2006 would be the best year of my life, and I came up with a list of goals that would serve as an indicator of how good the year had been.
Again, on New Year’s Eve 2006 I evaluated the year, and indeed it had been the best of my life. I came up with a new list for 2007, which turned out to be even better, and so on. If I complete most of what’s on that list, 2010 will have been the best year of my life.”

What an inspiring way to live! I have a list of life goals, but I never thought of making a list for each year, nor did I take time to reflect on the year that passed. Given that, it’s hard to know exactly how good or bad you’re doing. So the day after, I picked 10 items and made my own list. I vowed that 2010 would be the best year ever, and guess what? It has been!

How about you? Have you made a list for 2011? I’m curious to know how many people do (personally, I have not written mine yet).

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11 Comments
  1. I usually do, but this year I have been busy and a bit blue. Not anymore. Good post on inspiring me to get started on that list. Cheers!

  2. waitingforastart permalink

    I usually never make a list of goals, because I’m not very good at sticking to them. However, this year, I’m going to write a plan in the hope it will help me to focus and achieve things I want to accomplish by the end of the year.
    In fact, I was supposed to do it tonight, but then a friend called saying there’s a bottle of wine with my name in my favourite pub. Friends. Who’d have them. 🙂

    • Nothing like a bottle of wine and some friends! I’d agree with you on that decision 😉

      Lisa and Waitingforastart: Good on you two for taking that initiative, maybe in a few months you’ll blog on your achievements!

  3. I did it in response to one of the List Love Clubs listography prompts. I like the idea of picking things with an eye to making it the best year ever. So far when I do the things on my list, they are making me happy and satisfied. Need to get on the ones I’m ignoring now!

    • I actually remember reading about that list on your blog (the second one 😉 ). I didn’t really understand it at first but I just realize now that there’s a post that explains it in two simple sentences… maybe I should do it, I like lists!

  4. Your roommate sure is something wonderful! You’re very blessed! I had a mentor once who is a life coach and they’re really amazing people. You’re very lucky to have met him but I’m sure that he feels the same of you.

  5. I have the same sentiment about talking to strangers in a bus ride as disturbing so I like your friend’s advice, “Try to learn from everyone you meet, a stranger is just a potential friend”. My mom usually won so many acquaintances by just talking to strangers whenever she’s in a long drive and really enjoying the conversation.

    I have my 2011 list of dreams 🙂 I am optimistic that 2011 is the best year ever!

    @louids – So true re: he feels the same of you. What’s wonderful about @Elchico is he learns the lessons and appreciates the beautiful things.

    Great post! 🙂

  6. Nice post and your friend does indeed give good advice, I especially like the statement: “If you act like you’re happy you’ll feel happier. Your brain does not know the difference” …however; I am always a bit suspicious of people who have a job like ‘life coaches’ teaching others how to live a good life….probably your friend would reply I’m too judgmental without even knowing him!

  7. Thanks so much for the very nice comments you guys!
    @Louids and Yor Ryeter: Thank you for sharing these personal experiences too

    @Little Explorer: haha, or maybe he would not judge your beliefs 😉
    I too tend to be a little wary of people who call themselves “life coaches”, probably because I’m not too familiar with their work and have been taught a more scientific approach to psychology.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Letter 7: My Portuguese Teacher From High School « 101 Letters and Lessons Learned
  2. Letter 10: To My Employer « 101 Letters and Lessons Learned

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