I moved into my current one-bedroom Chicago apartment in July 2016. It would be the first place where I would live alone, a big departure from having lived in a 4-bedroom apartment with three of my very best friends, preceded by years at college where friends were always nearby. I was nervous to step out on my own but excited at the idea of making my home what I wanted it to be.
I hired movers and managed the move with them on my own — my boyfriend at the time was out of town and I didn’t want to be the person who asks for help with a move because no one likes helping with a move. Plus, if I’m going to live on my own, I should be able to handle a move on my own! The two men I hired scolded me for the way I had packed up my stuff. They scolded me for the amount of stairs I had. They scolded me for the way I moved my own stuff, as I made trips up and down the stairs with my belongings.
My friend (and new neighbor), Ida, met me at my new apartment as the men were finishing up. They had scolded me so much that I tipped them 50%, feeling ashamed for the things they had scolded me about, and later, for letting them make me feel ashamed.
Ida went with me to Target. In the middle of the toilet paper aisle (a luxury in retrospect), Ida made me laugh. I laughed heartily, but then quickly, suddenly, uncontrollably burst into sobs. Ida yelled, “YES WE’RE CRYING IN TARGET,” finding a way to somehow make this crying normal and weirdly celebratory. She held me while I let it out. After a moment, I got myself together, got what I needed, and we made our way back to my apartment. Later that night, I put on Adele and cried myself to sleep like the classy broad I am.
That first day was the day I broke out in my first hive: a big, nasty red bump that was itchy like you wouldn’t believe. I thought it was a spider bite. But then they kept coming: on my arms, my legs, my neck, even my fingers. Big, angry red hives over the course of months. The doctor would later conclude they were a result of stress.
I unpacked my things. A part of my dresser broke during the move and I thought to myself, I’ll get a new one next time I move. It is still in my apartment, and still slightly broken. I ordered a couch that would fit neatly in my small living room. Ida was the one who helped me put it together. I flew back to Boston and my sister and I drove out to Chicago with some furniture and my car. She helped me figure out the “flow” of my small one-bedroom apartment.
My furniture comes from a string of other apartments I have lived in prior to this one. Some comes from my late grandparents’ assisted living facility apartment, my rug from my cousin who used to live in Chicago. My decor is a mix of photographs I have taken, relics from travels, and crafts friends have made for me. My books only include the ones I have accumulated in the nearly seven years I have been in Chicago. I set my apartment the way I wanted it four years ago and that’s how it has stayed for most of the four years I have lived here.
But thinking about the 25 year-old who moved into this apartment, she feels like a toddler version of myself.
I watched Hillary Clinton lose the 2016 election from my apartment. I called senators and congresspeople from my apartment. I made protest signs and screamed at the news in my apartment. I broke up with my boyfriend in this apartment. I called abuse support hotlines in this apartment. I triple checked the locks in this apartment. I was consoled by friends and family in this apartment.
I bought new throw pillows for my couch in this apartment (huge for me). This apartment has seen me through triumph getting hired for dream jobs. These floors have held me as I heaved deep mournful sobs, as I recovered from a back injury, as I did countless Yoga with Adriene videos.
I have set off the smoke detector way too many times to count. I have recorded self-tapes and written essays, sketches, jokes. I have doubted myself in this apartment, spoke pep talks out loud to myself in this apartment. Practiced solo characters in this apartment. I have had food poisoning, stomach flus, and colds in this apartment. I have shit my bed in this apartment (I blame it on said stomach flu). I have fallen in love all over again in this apartment, had first kisses, long phone conversations catching up with old friends in this apartment.
I have felt bad about my body in this apartment. Popped zits in this apartment. Let my hair get too greasy in this apartment. I have avoided this apartment, knowing a wave of loneliness was waiting for me in this apartment.
I bought a new queen-sized mattress (big step for me) in this apartment. For a week, I slept on a boxspring and mattress on the floor like a deranged male improviser in this apartment. But then I ordered a bed frame and Ida helped me put it together even though she is no longer my neighbor. I have been impressed by friends who have shown up in this apartment. Who have wanted to help in this apartment.
I have drank in this apartment. FaceTimed with family in this apartment. I have Marie Kondo’d this apartment. I have also let the Marie Kondo’d items collect dust while I procrastinated actually taking them out of this apartment. I have danced naked in this apartment. I have sung at the top of my lungs in this apartment. I have struggled in this apartment. I have learned to ask for help in this apartment. Invested in my community of forever friends in this apartment. I have spent quiet moments in solitude in this apartment. I have had such profound moments of deep, unflinching love for myself in this apartment.
I have had really good sex in this apartment. I have had really bad sex in this apartment. I have had so-so sex in this apartment. I have washed so many dishes in this apartment; or rather, I have washed the same dishes over and over and over again in this apartment. I have sometimes let guests wash my dishes for me as a little treat in this apartment. I have had flowers in this apartment, made charcuterie boards in this apartment, baked treats in this apartment.
I bought a table and chairs for my deck in this apartment. I have started planting herbs in this apartment. I have started to think about how I can make this apartment even better for me. A hanging shelf here. A new rug there. Maybe even a new, unbroken dresser. Purchases like that are slow for me as I like to mull over a decision for a bit, sometimes out of a need to convince myself that I am allowed to spend time and money making my home what I want it to be. Sometimes out of a habit of contorting myself around dysfunction rather than making a change to my surroundings. I am grateful for the journey to learn over and over again that I am capable and deserving of a home that works for me.
I have laughed in this apartment. And goofed. And wiggled. And moaned. I have had so much joy in this apartment. I have felt so much pride in this apartment. And sorrow. And love. And hopelessness. And determination.
This little apartment and me… we’ve been through a lot together. I will not stay in this apartment forever. Maybe someday I’ll have more natural light and a bigger kitchen, and a place to put my coats. But for now, and for always, I am so grateful for this apartment.