Simone Mansell / DAILY NEXUS

I’m confident I have the most unusual living situation in Isla Vista: my mom and I are roommates.

Except she doesn’t clean my dishes. Or pay rent. Or water my plants. Or do my laundry. Or buy my groceries. She is honestly the worst roommate ever. 

Considering we live together, I end up texting and calling her quite frequently. We also exchange our fair share of “I miss you’s” and virtual hugs. 

Okay, fine. You caught me. My mom doesn’t actually live with me. As a roommate, she rarely contributes. As a mom, she exceeds expectations.  

My mom, though not my actual roommate, lives around me, through me and I’m constantly reminded of her presence. 

As an only child, my mom and I hold a more sisterlike bond. She was my first sleepover, my first makeup tutorial, my first inspiration. Knowing it’ll always be ‘Kira and Gena’ has taken me and will continue to take me through life with a certain level of ease.

To me, I see my mom through the lavender bushes on Pardall Road; lavender is her favorite scent. I’m reminded of her when grocery shopping in Trader Joe’s and picking up a new snack I know I’ll never actually eat; “Kira, you’re not going to eat that” rings through my head. I feel her when I’m sunken into the couch watching “Gilmore Girls” after a long school day — our favorite show that we’re convinced was written about us. 

My mom’s everywhere — and to think I was scared of leaving her for college. Little did I know, she would be with me when I make my nightly microwavable dinners, when I put our matching necklace on in the morning, when I spray our shared perfume scent and when I wear the outfit she bought for me during parents weekend. 

Being the only daughter in my family, my mom and I have had different levels with our relationship. In high school, I used to think she would never understand me, and that we would always be so different. Looking back on that now, it seems quite ridiculous. She is the part of my family that I know I can always find comfort in. We share a bond that no one else in my household could ever even begin to comprehend. 

Moving away from home, from her familiarity and dependability, I thought my life would flip upside down. Now, after living in Isla Vista for two years, I see how much of her knowledge, humor, wit and problem solving I took with me after I moved out. 

I’m beginning to transition from living life with my mom to experiencing life with her. Growing up, I tried to copy anything my mom did. I was committed to being exactly like her when I got older; she was my muse, my mentor, my personal therapist and my best friend.

Though she still holds all of those very official titles, I now notice myself growing into my own person with a different way of going about life. I appreciate that we deal with problems, successes and situations differently. I’d label myself an extrovert, her an introvert. I’d say I have a bit more of a sweet tooth than her, and she appreciates classic movies more than I ever could. I’m cognizant of our differences and hold our similarities close. I may be more inclined to spend my paycheck on clothes and she may only buy organic foods from Sprouts, yet we still reflect two halves of the same whole.

We definitely have our fair share of differences, but isn’t it so beautiful that everything I’ve learned has come from her? That I am a mold of her dedication, her love, her attention to me?

How lucky am I to have a mom that is reflected in the beautiful things I see every day? Even though her voice rings in my head when I make a bad decision, I never want it to leave. She is the first person I call when I have good or bad news, and she never fails to pick up. In her eyes, I’ll always be her little girl, and she’ll always be my best friend.

Similar to Kira’s experience, my mom is with me when it’s nearing the end of the month: “Ella, don’t forget to pay rent.” She predicts my forgetfulness like clockwork. I think of her when I press shuffle on my playlist and our favorite Taylor Swift song plays, my daily reminder of her. My mom repeatedly tells me that “she lives vicariously through me,” yet it feels she is with me everywhere I go.

Despite her physical absence, my reliance on her advice remains the same. It seems as though my mom’s patience doubles in size as she listens to my miscellaneous questions and complaints. No matter how many times I call her, she miraculously never gets tired of me. Whether I call for 30 seconds to ask when eggs expire or for an hour about what “business casual” actually means, she is always there, ready to react to whatever peculiar event that is currently happening in my life. 

As I venture my way through my college years, I have come to realize that my mom is also experiencing life for the first time. In retrospect, I am just a fraction of her lived experience. She was once a 20-something-year-old college student navigating her way through life, the same way I am. But to me, she has always just been my mom. I never knew the other versions of her. I often dismiss her past, and since she has made me the center of her world, I rarely feel the need to think about it. She is not just my mom — she is a daughter, a sister, a coworker and a friend. It is almost as if I have forgotten that as I grow older, she does as well. 

So, no, my mom does not physically live in my apartment with me, but she might as well. I see her in everything, and her love for me has instilled a perspective of the world that is surrounded with kindness, resilience and humor. I can only hope that one day I will be even half as great of a woman as she is. 

Ella Conolley and Kira Logan discuss their unusual living situations to celebrate Mother’s Day.

A version of this article appeared on p. 12 of the May 9, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.