It’s 4am. I can’t sleep. I’m too excited, to antsy, can’t handle the anticipation of what happened yesterday and what it means to come. Like a kid before Christmas, I can’t wait to see what’s in Santa’s sleigh. It’s times like this that make me wonder what I will be like the night before my future wedding; how any bride-to-be can ever get some shut eye the night before her wedding. How can she fall asleep when the next day will bring her nothing less than one of the most beautiful, important, romantic, and life-altering steps she will ever take? How will she pull it together and STILL look beautiful and well-rested? Ambien, a friend of mine would say.
This is not the first time my reaction to excitement has been insomnia – insomnia is familiar territory for me and unfortunately, my body goes through periodic cycles of it where I can go for weeks at a time, unable to wake up feeling refreshed, or waking up at odd hours throughout the night, or unable to stay asleep once I finally fall asleep.
I wait in bed an hour. 5am. At this point I have resigned myself to staying awake for the rest of the day, but I don’t really mind – I haven’t had a sleepless white night in a while, and I focus on the ways I want to spend the morning relaxing before the work begins.
I crawl out of bed – even though it is officially spring, it is grey and COLD. I scamper into the kitchen to turn on the hot water kettle – it’s still a bit too early to make coffee, I think. I look forward to the steaming mug with cream and cinnamon, and decide to put off that pleasure for a little longer, when I’m fully convinced I’ll be unable to fall back asleep. So I opt for a cup and saucer of hot lemon green tea, go back under the electric blanket, continue reading The Handmaid’s Tale, then doze off and on for another hour or so.
But the excitement is building. I can’t stay asleep for too long.
I just signed my very first one-bedroom apartment lease, I think.
My very first one-bedroom, no-roommate-no-guarantor ONE BEDROOM APARTMENT.
The thought of it makes me giddy again as I write.
I’ve lived “on my own” ever since I was 18 and in college. I’ve been independent (in varying degrees) from my parents for almost 10 years now, but I’ve never really been entirely on my own.
In college, I always had roommates.As a result, I can tell you that some people are just not made for roommates. I am one of them.
My best friend and I were discussing this the other day, how we are both
Type A Monicas much better off living alone, even though sometimes we wish we could live like in harmony with roommates like Monica and Rachel, Joey and Chandler. It’s not that we don’t have friends or like other people, but alone time and a private space are crucial for us when it comes to recharging and feeling energized. While we both sometimes fantasized about having a Sex in the City type of lifestyle with a fun group of girls or roommates, that vibe conflicts pretty seriously with our very being. As you may recall from a previous post, I am pretty independent and never one to flock to a group. I will obstinately do my own thing just because everyone else is doing something different. Thanks, Dad! And while I do genuinely like people, living with them is another thing; I am the neat freak, slightly-OCD, I-like-t0-do-things-my-own-way-for-better-or-worse-so-don’t-tell-me-what-to-do (working on this) roommate who wants nothing more than to have some peace and quiet (except when I don’t) a clean apartment (except when it isn’t) and the freedom to do as I choose (always).
I have had 14 roommates since my Freshman year of college. Without delving into too many particulars, I can say that I’ve lived with a self-righteous/judgmental religious fanatic, a complete hermit, someone who couldn’t afford the rent and would go to extreme measures to avoid turning on lights/heat, a mental lunatic (my brother confirms this), and a bizarre German couple who thought it was socially acceptable to frequently begin cooking (and then cleaning) gourmet meals like salmon and gnocchi in a creme-fraiche and dill sauce at 10pm in our tiny closet of an apartment, with my room right next to the kitchen, when I was trying to get ready for bed. At least they did their dishes?
This is not to say that I haven’t found a few diamonds in the rough. My senior year of college roommate set the bar extremely high. We had a kick-ass, gorgeous apartment with three gyms and a pool, through the canyon from Malibu, nestled in the hills of Calabasas, that her interior-decorator dad decked out to the nines. My bed there was still probably the comfiest bed I’ve ever slept in, and we actually became better friends as a result of living together. My current roommate also ranks as one of the best roommates I’ve ever had, but at the beginning of March I found her tearfully confronting me: Due to unfortunate personal life circumstances/major health issues, she was moving out on April 1st.
This left me with four options:
(1) Cry and sink into despair at the thought of having to adjust, yet again, to someone else’s living habits. Passively accept the next roommate that God sent my way, probably someone super loud and messy and “420 friendly” sent by God to punish me for some sin I had committed.
(2) Storm out in anger and rage, returning to bind her to the floor boards and force her to stay.
(3) Walk around in denial until April 1st and then hope that my landlord would just forget about me and let me continue living on my own in our 2BR.
(4) Reject all potential sublessors as not a good fit, and continue to do so until my lease was up in September.
My dad and brother – who apparently know me better than I know myself – pointed out the lingering fifth option I hadn’t even dared to consider:
Get my own apartment.
You see, I didn’t even want to consider this possibility – didn’t want to get my hopes up. New York is notoriously expensive, and even in cities that are less-so it can still be difficult to afford a place of your own. Last year, working the first job I could find and accepting its measly salary, I could barely afford my current place, let alone have a social life – the two often conflicted. Of course last year, I didn’t really know anybody, so it wasn’t too hard to choose. I was definitely NOT blowing rent money on bottle service a la Katy Perry. But what’s the point of living in New York City if you can’t have a social life and experience all of the magical things this adult playground of a place has to offer?
When I finally switched jobs, I happily adjusted to the salary increase. I was finally able to comfortably have the best of both worlds. Which brings me back to my present day situation.
“Roommates stress you out, Laur. You might have to make some sacrifices and go on a budget, but if you can do it, go for it.”
This got me thinking – maybe I actually could do this. It has been a dream of mine since my first roommate to finally do this thing on my own. To be 100% fully in control, making decisions independent of somebody else’s input or desires. To have my own place, where I can do my dishes immediately (90%) or leave them in the sink (10%) without worrying about them annoying anybody else. If I break a glass, it’s mine to break. If I want to clean the bathroom at 10pm or 10am while playing music, no one is going to stop me. I can have my boyfriend and friends over any time I like – as well as out of town visitors (talking to you, Italians!) – who can stay as long as I please without fear of infringing upon someone else. I don’t have to share my personal belongings, or use anyone else’s, because they will all be MINE. I can decorate and redecorate as I choose. I CAN WALK AROUND NAKED.
The payoff began to sound increasingly attractive.
I weighed my options. I crunched my numbers. I took my monthly and figured out how much I could pay in rent, and what that would leave me to spend on food and fun. I made a budget. I took into account putting away small monthly amounts towards savings. I ADULTED.
Worst case scenario, my dad said, you put up with whoever comes into the apartment and get out when your lease ends in September. Not a bad plan.
But then I started thinking…why wait until September? Why not begin the search now?
Being the do-or-die person that I am, I commenced immediately, stumbling across my new apartment that very same day while searching listings on NakedApartments (coincidence? HA! I think not!). I love Astoria and was not looking to relocate just yet, so my goal was to find a small studio somewhere in this neighborhood that I could call home.
The universe did me one better and sent me a unicorn: a RENT-STABILIZED one bedroom (not a studio!) in one of the best parts of Astoria, closer to Manhattan and four subway lines, some of the city’s best restaurants, and with laundry and super on site. Whattt??? Now I started to get even more excited at the prospect. Could this be for real?
I booked a viewing with the listing agent – whose email signature said “Inviato da iPhone” (Sent from my iPhone) in Italian – another sign? Trekking over early on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago to scope out the place, I started to wonder: what was going to be wrong with the apartment that it would be offered at such a price? Would it be a glorified closet? How many people had put in an application already? Would I even be approved?
The answer, in short, was nothing. Granted, it is tinier than my current small space, and the bedroom will basically fit my bed and (hopefully) my dresser, but it would be ALL MINE. There are exactly two kitchen cabinets and zero counter space, but it would be all mine. No negotiating who gets top shelf and which room goes to whom. Because it’s All.Mine.
After viewing the apartment I called my dad for some fatherly advice. He’s the first person I always go to when I need wisdom and encouragement and sound judgment from someone who has always believed in me. While he never tells me what to do, exactly, the sentiment was the same on all sides: go for it!
So here we are today. I won’t bore you with the details of this month-long stressful and exciting and chaotic process, but yesterday I put pen to paper and signed my new lease for a fantastic one bedroom apartment that I am beyond thrilled to call home. It’s not the most beautiful apartment I’ve ever lived in – that prize goes to the 16th century frescoed-and-chandeliered palazzo with antique furniture that I lived in in Florence – but it’s mine to fix up and make a home.
Mine to come home to and pop open a bottle of wine and listen to Flo Rida as loud as I want when I’ve had a stressful day.
Mine to take care of.
Mine to call the super about if the stove stops working. Mine to complain about if the neighbors make noise. Mine to tell my kids about when I tell them about the time I really and truly lived on my own.
Mine to invite friends and guests over to anytime and for however long I please – as long as they don’t cook after 10pm and respect the rules of the house, of course.