Finally Felt a Functional Home

Name: Maxeem Konrardy

Pronouns: any

Period: March 2011 – Sept. 2012 and April 2014 – Oct. 2015

Very Important Person to You? It’s impossible to pick from so many! I am in constant contact with my dear friend and roommate Charlie, we were the center of our own little Room 6 community.

Favorite Group Activity? Random outdoor adventures involving who ever shows up then Eagan taking guitar requests around the fire pit.

Favorite Co-op Meal? One time we pitched in for tons of fresh Indian ingredients, and I spent all afternoon making three different curries. It was amazing. I still think about that.

Best of Dinkytown? Magus books

Favorite Co-op Party Theme? Progression parties felt like Trick-or-Treating combined with playing “fort” and very involved performance art.

Favorite Maintenance Project? Refinishing the floors for possibly one of the last times they could withstand being shaved down.

Most Valuable Lesson/Skill? Anarchists, communists and fascists can share the skillet in the morning

Do You Have Advice? Communicate

To Put It Simply … Heart

What do you do now? I still dream a lot about co-operating … literally!

What does the Co-op mean to you?
Art had been my way of coping with instability in family, ever since I can remember. Yet after gaining a supposedly high-ranking creative job (that I’d seamlessly entered right after the art academy) the office perpetuated more societal dysfunction and stress than ever, and I could not support the position of business partnership. Failing to find an alternate way to define success for myself, I decided to take up my mother’s offer to join her family in Europe and see if I could navigate and heal the roots of intergenerational trauma. I imagined myself interning with the Tuscan landscape to learn subsistence farming that would provide food-based spiritual medicine.

While co-directing an organic farm in Ramsey to gain strength and experience I met a diverse group of protesters. Then the end of 2008 bubble popped and the European adventure turned into a wrestling match between another corporate job and somewhat directionless exploration of alternatives to what I’d tried before. So I dove into the latter, which ended up looking like living with activists in Oakland, and finally exchanging intensive forensics research for room and board outside of Rome (which lasted almost a year).

Meanwhile, back in America, Occupy Wall Street was spilling out of subculture into the streets, Native Americans were showing up to give pointers about resistance to the hegemony, and it finally felt like there was a glimmer of long overdue change in regime on the horizon – from neocolonial greed to something more like the difficult path of communication and (before I knew the word) egalitarianism. And despite naïve effort with my Mom, intergenerational trauma overwhelmed my ability to heal it.

So after the 18 months of struggling to reboot sustainable community, I found myself back on Dakota land, experiencing the compounded crises of belonging that the 99% was going through. My activist father met young collectivists who — by coincidence or through the inevitable — overlapped with the groups I knew. My dear friend among them Kira recommended me to one of the most collectivist kinds of spaces she had yet experienced. It sounded like something right out of the struggles of the Tuscan hills – people sharing resources, space and garden, and making collective purchases together – to resist despotism within dominant culture!

All this wind up is to say that I have experienced some profound uncertainty in life. So when my application to the Students’ Co-op was accepted in March 2011 (they recently struck the rule forbidding non-students) I was surprised to find something much more special than just a less-dysfunctional space. It was an orderly experiment in co-operative living with a known history going back over 70 years. I was recruited into bathroom and maintenance duties in quick succession – savoring, admiring and wondering at every strange rule that kept it going. In short order I was part of the first place in my life that felt like “home”.

Living in closeness, as part of a functional group, teaches irreplaceable lessons of reassurance, trust and collaboration. When you are treated more equally than empire ordinarily dictates, the raw humanity is unforgettably healing. Conversely, if something is too much for a community to handle, I learned what forgiving, remembering and learning from mistakes looks like, instead of merely shaming, hiding and coping. In co-operation, the spirit of collectively flowing shared power to needs is ever present, as opposed to mainstream quests for stations of poorly aged privilege. The Students’ Co-operative didn’t only justify my faith in humanity – it exceeded my expectations with constant exercises in gentleness and overcoming stagnation.

Is it perfect and free of faults and illusions? Of course not! It’s just that thanks to three Winters and four Summers of invaluable friendships, skills and lessons in the organically co-operative home at 1721 University Avenue, I have unrestricted access to emotional wellbeing – an internal never-ending Spring from which my very life’s sense of hope is perpetually renewed. It was through co-operative role play there that my coping mechanisms could Fall away to reveal a creative joy, redolent with meaning and inspiration. Renewal and transformation are rare powers – ones that I strongly feel will behoove generations of now and the future. Let us re-give that gift to those who need it, while we can.