Today I handed over the keys of my apartment to its new tenant – making me officially homeless for the next two weeks until the lease starts at my next home. And while I was more than ready to leave and start at a new place, it was bittersweet to hear my voice echoing in the emptiness of the studio that was once so full of…me.
I outlined the curve of the kitchen area with cards from friends and family throughout the past few years. I hung my straw hat above my bed, sat empty antique boxes on a dresser that wasn’t mine then and still isn’t now, placed penny jars from the paths I’ve followed, and filled drawers full of makeup, playbills, and ticket stubs I’ve collected. This place housed my many dreams, the failures I couldn’t avoid but survived, and the one man who shared a twin bed with me. It took me in after the city had its way with me, it comforted me when I wanted to escape the hustle of the streets to look into the “backyards” of my neighbors a street over. It was my resting stop where I wrote most of these blogs and where I began to come into my own.
Maybe it wasn’t the start of my story, but it saw me through the many New York struggles I faced when I moved here, and now, it will do the same for a new tenant who happens to be my friend M, from college.
A few hours ago, her plane touched down at LGA, and with a suitcase, carry-on, and kitten in tow, she took a cab to her new apartment. In heels, of course. I helped her carry her bags and gave her a tour of the neighborhood, making suggestions, and giving warnings of things to avoid. I left a few items for her that she may need, dishes and towels, umbrellas and a blanket. The thing about starting over and creating a life from scratch is that no ingredients are provided. All of those everyday essentials that we so often take for granted are all of the things necessary to design a home: curtains and silverware, rugs and lamp shades, extension chords and power strips, a broom, and toilet paper. Taking a leap of faith requires more than just a hope and a prayer, but also savings to hold you over until the job arrives – especially when all the commonplace items add up quite quickly.
After a tour around uptown, M and I headed for lunch in Union Square at one of my favorite Thai restaurants. As we were talking and laughing, I noticed the light of her face – she was unable to hide her excitement topped with a healthy dose of nerves. In a sudden rush down memory lane, I remembered that feeling all too well. Like me, like my friends K, E, N, and J – she did what she had to do to make her dreams a reality. And while it is too soon to tell what her dreams will come (though I’m certain they will be remarkable) – she said she didn’t feel brave. Not moving wasn’t an option, not coming to New York was not even an idea to entertain, it was a make-it-or-break-it situation and even if she doesn’t make it big, she won’t be going home.
And everyone I know who has been in her same shoes, including myself, has felt the exact same way. It isn’t about the guts it takes, it is just about the gate that has to be opened to let life…begin.
But after it starts – then what?
Handing her my keys with a smile and a warm hug, I realized I’m past the starter stage. I’m not a New Yorker by anyone’s terms and especially my own, but I’m also not a newbie. I know the city, I’ve found my footing, I’ve been blessed with wonderful friends and a strong network, I’ve immersed myself into my industry, and I’ve been lucky enough to find a pretty great guy, too. Things continue to be new and I anticipate many new beginnings in my near future, and so when the new rolls in, the old must exit gracefully.
The apartment started me – it gave me a foundation. And that was its purpose – to be the starter. To ignite me and provide stability, and now with a little more street smarts, a little less liability, and some places to land should I fall, there isn’t a need for a starter. Like most of what brings us joy in our lives, it has its tenure and then we move onto the next thing, to the next dream to tackle, to the new empty space to make into a home. And in a year or so, M will find herself leaving the start to find her way to where I am now.
And that’s a place that isn’t defined by starting or ending, creating or growing roots. Instead, it is a place where New York is still just exciting, still gives me butterflies in my stomach, and still is the address I’d rather have than any other zip code in the world. But now, it’s more than that…it is normal. It has all of those everyday, commonplace things that add up but can’t be found in the grocery or hardware store. It is in the streets I know like the back of my hand, the subway map I hardly have to look at, the laugh lines of my friends whose faces I’ve grown quite accustomed to, it’s in the voice of the woman I buy my coffee from each morning without fail, it’s in the fact that every key I’ve carried for a year has changed this month except for my key to Mr. Possibility’s apartment, and it’s in the purse that’s battled through it all.
It’s in the fact that now, I’m out of the starter apartment, and I’m off to live somewhere that doesn’t need to ignite me because I’ve already lit myself up.
As someone who will be moving to a new city in the next few months – this post really made me feel less alone. I have to reopen that gate as you said to let the next part of my life begin.
Though it doesn’t sound like you need a new apartment to begin that journey of yours – i wish you a magical move that embraces the next part of your nyc journey. :)
“she said she didn’t feel brave. Not moving wasn’t an option, not coming to New York was not even an idea to entertain, it was a make-it-or-break-it situation”
When I moved into my starter apartment in the wilds of Brooklyn YEARS ago now, I remember that same feeling. Although I was over the fear of making the jump to Brooklyn and freelancing in New York. I didn’t feel brave by doing what I was doing. I had to do this if I ever wanted to be taken seriously as someone working in theater. It was both terrifying and everyday, those feelings.
I enjoyed my “starter” apartment, but I really enjoy the places I’ve lived in since… They’re places I call my own in this city, and that feels like an accomplishment.
Even though I didn’t begin my starter apartment in NYC, I felt the same butterflies in my stomach, the same feelings of anxiety and excitement in the humble beginnings of a small town in North Carolina. The rent for my first apartment was only $135 per month, and included garbage, water and cable TV – it also included cock roaches – YIKES! After the roaches were eliminated I began to my appreciate my strength and ability to adapt to “city” living! What great memories!!!
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