The first time I left my family home was at 18 when I went to college and co-inhabited a dorm room that barely fit two beds and two desks. On summers between semesters, I returned to my childhood bedroom and promptly upon my graduation at 21, I moved to New York City… a town notorious for, among other things, expensive rent and multiple roommates.
Thus began years of living with people—some strangers, some friends, some strangers who became friends, and some friends who became strangers. It’s a funny thing, the 5 bedroom apartment. But it always felt like home. I loved coming home after work and flopping onto my roommate’s floor to discuss the day’s happenings. Loved gathering on the sofa to debrief someone’s recent date. Even loved the blue painters tape that kept the fridge organized and the way someone was always there with advice, fun ideas, or a second wardrobe to borrow from.
It wasn’t lost on me then—when in November 2021, I moved back to a temporary stay in a studio apartment in my old neighborhood, a couple blocks from the infamous 5 bedroom that I’d lived in for almost 4 years—that it would be my first experience living alone. And while I was excited at this new opportunity, I was also a bit nervous. I’m quite the extrovert. What if I hate it? What if it’s lonely? What if I don’t like not being able to wander down the hall to get a second opinion on an outfit? Who is going to eat all my baked goods?
As my 3 months in the studio draws to a close today, and with my next move involving a roommate, I am stunned by the beautiful ways I have let this experience sculpt me… the things I have learned. Early on, I started putting joking notes into my phone. I’d like to share a few of those now.
Just because you don’t like taking a 450 degree cookie sheet out of the oven with a dish towel, doesn’t mean you can’t.
A proper pot holder costs less than $5.00.
If you hear a dripping faucet, it’s your fault and you alone have to figure out where it’s coming from.
Always keep an extra roll of toilet paper in the bathroom. No one is coming to save you.
You are now a bug exterminator. There is no other option.
Dance parties whenever you want.
No one will stop you from eating a whole chocolate cake by yourself. No one.
You can walk around in however much or little clothing you’d like.
There’s no one to share the chili with so think twice before making that much.
The bathroom door never needs to be closed.
I oft wondered what my world would be like removed from any external influences. Sometimes that looked like Fridays where my pajamas were on at 7:00 PM. Sometimes that looked like Saturdays where I didn’t get home until 4:30 AM. Sometimes that looked like interpretive dance parties to Broadway showtunes and other times like sobbing on my window sill when the world felt too heavy.
The past three months have challenged me, encouraged me, loved me, held me. I’ve felt desperation in the form of an apartment flood in the midst of a busy work week. And I’ve felt pride as I made hot chocolate for 4, as my friends and I sat on mismatched furniture swapping stories and book recommendations and life, so much life.
I’ve felt relief when the flood led to minimal damage. And comfort in the way the city lights from my window seemed to welcome me home even on the darkest nights. I’ve felt stress in the way I was responsible for the care and keeping of seven plants and accomplishment as I’ve kept them thriving. Gratitude in the arriving. Melancholy in the goodbye.
I was talking to a friend recently about how some things, jobs, and people come into our lives for a season. And how the best we can do is love them while we have them and release them when they’re no longer ours to hold.
Three months ago, I took a chance on an apartment I’d never seen that belonged to a woman I didn’t know. There was no better place to heal a tired heart. To learn what it feels like to boil tea water for one. To honor the sacred practice of living honestly. To come home to myself.