The other day, my partner and I were walking around Central Park, killing time before a Broadway show. We were going to the show because I had entered the lottery the day before and we’d won tickets—something I did from time to time and with an unusual amount of success. It was recounting the lottery that reminded me of one of my first roommates when I moved to the city, at the time, my go-to for fun last minute plans and adventures.
This roommate and I didn’t meet until we were sleeping down the hall from one another. We’d both been in the city about 5 months when we started living together and we were both the definition of NYC, early 20s scrappiness. And I loved them for it.
We were underpaid and overworked. We kept crazy schedules and had lots of doubts and would sit on the roof sometimes at night talking about how and why we ended up here. In your early twenties, there is something pure in finding someone with whom you have sincere mutual understanding. We were the perfect accomplices.
We were also 2 of 5 people living in a 4 bedroom, 1 bath apartment. For an entire month, I slept on a deflated air mattress behind the sofa because even though the person I was subletting from had moved back in, we were all having too much fun to split up so soon. The bedroom I first stayed in had no air conditioning. On my 22nd birthday, we lit and blew out a Yankee candle because we didn’t have cake candles.
We didn’t have any disposable income but we had ideals. We had dreams for the mark we’d leave on this city and we inspired each other every day. Despite working in entirely different fields, I loved the way we encouraged, listened, and supported each other. But perhaps more than that, we challenged one another.
We only lived together for a few months and then our group ventured off to different apartments and boroughs, with varied levels of “staying in touch.” And it had been a while since I really thought about what it meant to me… to be in a new city with a new friend.
I will never be able to properly articulate how much this time meant to me… how much I grew as a person… how grateful I am. It feels almost holy.
Seven years removed, I look back with so much love and appreciation for that apartment, those friends, that roommate. I don’t know if at the time I realized I was living in a dream. I don’t know if at the time I appreciated what it was to be 21 in New York City.
We used to walk to Fairway just to stand in the freezer section and cooldown from the stifling heat, only to be sweating again by the time we walked home. I don’t think I realized back then that I was making the kind of core memory that 7 years later would make me cry with sentimental appreciation as I type this. We were just kids trying to get by. I didn’t know we were thriving, in our own, unconventional, messy ways.
I imagine, perhaps, I’ll look back seven years from now and feel grateful for who I was in this moment, in this apartment, at this age. And perhaps that is all the growth I need from this reflection—to recognize the beautiful stage that I’m in… and to know that someday this chapter will also end. And that someday, when I’m 36 and reflecting back on 29, I might miss the way I have to take all my baking supplies out of my cramped cupboard each time I want to bake everything. I might miss my super’s barking dog and the sidewalk strip outside my building that we affectionately call “The Splash Zone” because of the dripping liquid from window A/C units.
And if I know I’ll miss it someday, perhaps the best thing I can do is be grateful I have it now. I can lean into every aspect of my life right now—the good, the bad, the uncomfortable. I can embrace the changes and the uncertainty and I can know that someday, I’ll look back with a little more clarity and understanding. Perhaps the best thing I can do right now is appreciate every moment of the “right now.” Because someday this right now will be just another “remember when.”