I don’t often cop to having feelings, but this move has me a little misty.
Oh, charming studio apartment, with your bathroom skylight and bigass porch, you were my truest ally when I ran screaming out of Brooklyn in October 2015. I spent the first week of my lease with you first with Liza staying over, then running back and forth from New York, finishing work or collecting odds and ends from my last apartment. After officially moving back, my first full night in Philadelphia was on Halloween. I drank a beer and tried to illegally watch the movie Halloween on my computer. (Of the three things I just described, I am only any good at the first one.)
Until I decided to move, I had never considered living alone, and my first few weeks in Philly were a struggle. Siri suggested playing music 24/7, but I took it a step further. I slept with the lights on — all of them. I never turned off my television. I adopted weird behaviors typically reserved for those on Ambien, like watching eight hours of “Chopped Junior” on demand and cooking pizza at three in the morning.
On one hand, I was leaning into my newfound freedom — free from full-time work, and free from NYC — but I also felt myself beginning to test my own limits. I immediately crash-landed into two service jobs and came home late, drunk, and hungry. I’d turn on all the lights, blast Netflix, sleep until 2pm and do it all over again the following day. It felt good for a little; I was 24 and trying to have fun again. Trying to uncover what I thought of as fun. That wasn’t sustainable, though.
Apartment, you helped me. You helped me grow up! You taught me how to rein in my nonsensical decorating style, one best described as “all the thoughts that tumbled out of my head when I hopped on one foot, kind of like when you’re trying to shake water out of your ear.” (It’s called power-clashing, Lemon, and I invented it.) And, apartment, you helped me face some incontrovertible truths. For example: I talk to myself constantly, and left to my own devices, I will always eat two dinners. The songs I invent for my cat are getting longer and less sane. I have a pathological aversion to showering in the morning. I’m beginning to understand why my habits mystify my parents.
That said, I liked being able to keep you clean to my standards, and never wearing pants, and being forced to take a hard look at good ol’ me. In between jokes about my own personal Grey Gardens, I took to bragging that I lived alone. I tried to exude an air of “I’m grown up, sophisticated, so far beyond needing human companionship.” The reality was, I was a cranky, stressed, and depressed nutjob looking for direction in life, and the best way for me to find it was locking me in a room with me. I couldn’t handle sharing a space with another person, but, privately, I knew I wouldn’t exactly have been a dream roommate either. Something something there’s peace in extreme solitude. (That short story, while not great, makes a few solid points.)
Some days, apartment, I danced around to Talking Heads by myself. Others, I cried on the floor and listened to Emmylou Harris until it all stopped hurting. Such is life! But it’s a life I couldn’t have figured out without you there, knowing all my bizarre secrets, refusing to explain how the lone fly kept getting in (and its immortality???), and generally being mine. As time wore on, this stupid cute apartment was always there to welcome me back from Austin, Seattle, Portland, and Nashville (among others). It was where I realized I could actually enjoy Philadelphia, instead of viewing my hometown as a Good Enough Safety Net (For Now). In this apartment, I figured out how to write freelance, and even make some money from it. I stopped being hesitant to show people what I was writing started asking for input on occasion. I learned how to actually take care of myself (even if I didn’t always do it). I just loved coming home.
So, Apartment, I’m sorry about the wine on the ceiling and all the shit I broke. I apologize for the month(s) I gave up and stopped using a shower curtain. I’m sorry for the places I threw up, the framed postcards I shellacked onto the walls, and how the cat’s favorite perch was the stove. Continuing my list: Last I heard from the person I thought was my landlord, she was pregnant and on a “permanent hiatus” from work. It haunts me that it took almost a year to get an actual trashcan for the kitchen. You’re the reason I’m afraid of squirrels and why UPS no longer takes my calls. You were the first place I ever lived alooooone, and I am immensely grateful for it.
I’m really not excited to move again. Moving sucks. Even the successful moves, even the ones where your apartment will be bigger and better (1br, what up), or your friends drop everything to give you a pep talk (or better, show up in person), even the ones where the movers love your cat and nothing breaks and the anti-anxiety medication works just fine and you remember everything, moving is the living worst. But I’m not spooked or sad to keep living by myself! I’m not measuring my success by the Instagram lifestyle suggestions that pop up when I accidentally hit “Explore.” I’m not lamenting another nine months in Philadelphia, even though I was sooo sure I’d hightail it out of my beloved hometown this summer. This perfect, imperfect, weird Being John Malkovich/Hobbit-esque-door-having studio has been home for 20 months, and that’s enough. This was just the first step; it’s time I take another, etc. Does Contact hold up? I guess that’s for another time.
Anyway, Apartment, LoveYouMeanIt. Sorry about the raccoon!!! That was my bad, but he is not coming with me. I only have the one pet carrier, and Sloane has dibs. Unlike a dorm or a high school (except for my high school, which they bulldozed), I won’t ever see you again. That level of permanence makes me uncomfortable, as goodbyes always have — I’m no good with uncertainty, and even less so with finality. Man, this letter got away from me, huh? So it goes. I hope the next tenant remembers to lock you more often. JK. No, but really.