My noisy neighbor
lettertotheeditor | Wednesday, January 18, 2023
I am almost 60 years old and a “non-matriculating learner” back on Notre Dame’s campus. I am not quite a student and I am not faculty or staff. I don’t fit neatly into Notre Dame’s classification structure and my status varies depending on the need or request. I am a Fellow in the 2022-23 cohort of the Inspired Leadership Initiative (ILI). My colleagues and I have all embarked on this encore education experience to discover, discern and design the next phase of our lives, after spending 20+ years in rewarding and successful careers. When I arrived in South Bend in August 2022, I was full of energy and excitement about what I would learn and discover about myself over the next year. This quickly dissolved to exhaustion and weariness and many emotions in between.
I moved into my apartment at The Foundry a couple weeks before the start of fall semester. I wanted to live at The Foundry because of the close proximity to be able to walk to and from my apartment to campus and back every day. I am on the third floor, even though I specifically requested to be on a top floor and was told I would be. When I arrived, I found out I was instead on the third floor and there were zero vacancies. The first week in my apartment was very quiet, save for the loud music from a tenant arriving in the parking lot every morning between 6:30 – 6:45 a.m. I surmised this to be someone who works nights and comes home from their shift and blasts their terrible music with no regard for neighbors who may be still sleeping. This intrusion serves as my unwanted wake-up call. The terrible music I can live with, as it lasts from three to seven minutes. Yes, I’ve timed it. What I’ve struggled to live with is the daily, constant stomping, slamming, bamming, scraping, rolling and dragging noises above me. This cacophony of noise started about the third week I was in my apartment. The first week or so, I chalked it up to the sounds of moving in. Lots of what sounded like dragging — perhaps moving of furniture, slamming cabinets, throwing down heavy objects onto the floor, stomping across the floor and sounds of rolling, lots of rolling! After about a month and this noise did not cease and being awaken by what sounded like weights being slammed onto the floor, ala a work-out, I got out of my bed and went up to the fourth floor apartment above me. I knocked and knocked and finally a shirtless and sweaty young man opened the door. I introduced myself as his downstairs neighbor and asked if he was lifting weights. As he replies, “no, it’s not me, I’m not doing anything,” I’m peeping through the crack of his door into his apartment and seeing a mess all over the floors. Barely any room to walk. I swear I saw a hand weight. I did not confront him about it, but asked nicely if he would please be cognizant of the noise and keep it down. He did not. Over the next several months the noise persisted. Every. Day. Day and night. I was incredulous. I contacted The Foundry management, but that was a waste of time and a “whole nother story.”
I struggled with how to deal with this disturbance of my peace. I was not expecting to live in total silence, but at the same time did not know I would have to pray for moments of quiet. As I look back on this past semester, I can vividly recall my journey through the whole ‘cycle of change’ that I have taught and coached leaders throughout my career.
Phase I: Loss and Doubt. The hallmark of this phase is loss of control. I had zero control over when my home would be bombarded with all manner of noise. I heard him slamming the toilet up. I heard him peeing. I heard him slamming the toilet down. Many, many times during the day and night. I heard him rolling in what sounded like a desk chair, from the office area to the kitchen. I angrily imagined him greedily getting a snack from the cabinet then slamming it and happily rolling back to his desk. I heard him stomping around every square foot of that apartment, which became so much louder during the colder months, when he seemed to be wearing heavy boots. I heard him moving furniture around every day. Who moves furniture around every day? I doubted my decision to come to Notre Dame for the ILI program. I contemplated dropping out. I then became very angry, the primary feeling in Phase I. I wished he would flunk out and have to go home. I resented him and could not believe he was being so inconsiderate to a fellow human being. As my mom would say, “does he have no home training?”
Phase II: Discomfort and Discovery. This phase was rife with my anxiety, the primary feeling at this stage, and trying to figure out how to mitigate the noise. I tried to be away from my apartment as much as possible, which was not ideal for me, as I am essentially a home body. When home, I amped up my own noise levels in an effort to cover up the noise from above, constantly running the fan in the bathroom and the fan on the stove. “Alexa, play spa music” was my immediate command as soon as I walked in the door to my apartment every day. I wore ear plugs all the time, even when I slept. I felt terrible about the noise I was surely causing for my downstairs neighbor, but I also hoped they would call the apartment management to report me because then maybe something would be done about my noisy upstairs neighbor. Nope.
Phase III: Understanding and Integration. As I began to deal with a health issue of my own, I started to think about my upstairs neighbor and wonder what he might be dealing with as well. I wondered why he was always in his apartment. He seemed to never leave to go to class or work. Maybe he’s a home body too, but a noisy one. He never had anyone over, that I could hear. I would anticipate home football game weekends and think surely he will go out with friends and to the game and I’ll have a quiet break. He never did. I started to wonder why would a 20-something stay in his apartment all the time, moving around, even pacing about… all the time. My thoughts about him became less blaming and more toward trying to understand. I allowed myself to feel some empathy for him. I started to pray for him. I wondered if he suffers from anxiety or some other mental health issues. I have talked with enough students on campus to understand it is certainly a debilitating issue for many in this generation. One of my ILI colleagues was also dealing with noise issues with a neighbor and after similarly complaining to the office with no satisfaction, brought some cookies to them. Right before the Christmas break, I tried to do the same with my neighbor, but he did not answer the door. I’m pretty certain he was in his apartment because I had just heard him stomping around before I went up there with the peace offering. Maybe he looked out of his peephole and saw me and just couldn’t deal. I get it. Directing behavior toward more generosity is the goal of this final phase to accepting change. I do have more empathy now. I still don’t like the noise and wish it was not a constant in my life for the next five months, but I will live with it and wish the best for my noisy neighbor.
ILI Fellow 2022-23
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.