An apartment of my own

I was 32 years old when I got my own apartment. Before that, so many of my living arrangements had been haphazard and insane:

  • A tiny 2-bedroom apartment in Brazil with 5 roommates, 1 cold shower, and a half broken toilet
  • A room of bunk beds off the street in Brazil with 3 roommates, 1 fucking cold shower, and a half broken toilet
  • An apartment in Brooklyn with 5 roommates and a 6th stowaway who we often fought about in the group chat, as he slept on my roommate’s floor rent-free and never came down to pee, cook, or say hello
  • My best friend’s couch with a roommate who would spread a line of salt in the doorways to keep the spirits out

Before covid, I spent a few months living in New Jersey with just one roommate, which was a change of pace. It worked for me when I still thought I was going to quit my job and travel the world. I didn’t need any belongings or furniture to tie me down. So many of the rooms I rented came with a bed that the previous tenant had left there.

When the pandemic ruined any chance I had of traveling, I made a choice: it was time to get an apartment of my own. Even if it made it–for the first time in my life–really inconvenient to travel.

Because you know what else was inconvenient? Feeling tense in my own home. Eating meals in bed. Feeling guilty about closing my door and shutting people out because I’m an introvert and can’t talk to anyone at the end of the day.

But also: washing dishes that weren’t mine. Cleaning someone else’s hair out of the drain. Weed smoke coming through the vents in my bedroom and enveloping my work clothes in a cloud. Late night parties when I have work the next day. People going into my room when I’m not home.

And the smaller things, like seeing a cute pair of dish towels and feeling like I’d overstep if I bought them. Wanting to put up a painting in the living room but realizing it wouldn’t vibe with how the roommates had been decorating it.

I was tired of feeling uneasy at home.

So I started apartment hunting, even though a lease and all this furniture would be such an anchor, even though I had never spent this much on rent in my life.

The first apartment I saw was hideous. Stained yellow walls, crumbling wood floors, dramatic purple curtains, and no air conditioning. I felt my heart sink when I arrived after staggering up the stairs in the thick August heat, but I gamely took pictures and spent 15 minutes walking through it. I sent the pictures to my mom. “Is the wood floor…burned?” she asked. I told the landlord that I’d be in touch but was already planning my polite rejection text.

I saw a few other places and felt dismayed. Some were bigger, some were updated, one even had central air. But nothing clicked.

I kept thinking about Ugly Apartment.

I loved the way one side faced the street and the other side faced lush, green trees. I loved the double doors leading to the living room. I loved how the walk-in closet could actually be a bedroom–I imagined closing the doors at night and feeling safe in a small room. I imagined reading in a bed pushed against the wall and looking out the window. I loved how on a clear day, you could see the World Trade Center.

So I chose Ugly Apartment. And I love it with all my heart.

All the money I had saved for my trip went towards the security deposit, first month’s rent, and furniture. I tore down the purple curtains, had the whole place painted, and bought a ton of rugs to cover up the floors, which still give me splinters.

I spent months building furniture. I unpacked and unpacked and unpacked and unpacked books, and felt so grateful to have one space to keep them all.

Note the cardboard under the shelves to keep them from toppling onto the uneven floor

There is something so peaceful about coming home and knowing the WHOLE SPACE is your own, everything inside it is yours, and you don’t have to feel uneasy anywhere.

I eat in every room in the apartment, I dance in the kitchen, I work out in the living room, I walk around in my underwear. If I see something I like, I buy it and don’t worry for a second about taking up space.

While I still have wanderlust, the comfort of this home makes me want to leave a bit less. Staying in New Jersey doesn’t feel as agonizing. Most of the time it even feels nice.

Do you have any roommate horror stories? Have you ever had your own place?

5 comments

  1. I’m happy you have finally gotten to experience and put down roots in your own space. There is just something about coming home to your own place and feeling safe that feels so wonderful. Plus I have a furry four legged son that is with me and he makes coming home even more enjoyable. 🐰💞

  2. Haven’t tried being on my own since living with the parents is the norm from where I’m from. But if I will put up my own space, I hope it’s as gorgeous as this one. I hope you get to share more of your apartment. I love going through it.

    • That was the sweetest comment! Thank you. Many of my friends from Brazil live with their parents as Rio is expensive and it’s just common to stay with family until one is married. Culturally, there’s also just a stronger sense of closeness to one’s family which I think is really beautiful.

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