this month's collab for If...:
If you were asked to identify your most life-altering moment, what would it be? Why did that pivotal event or experience cause you to change your direction?
Moving Out and Upthere have been a lot of defining moments in my life, events or decisions that stand out. some i'm proud of, others i'd like to take back. more than any one of those, tho, i'd pick November 1, 1997.
well, i say November 1st, because that's the date on the first lease. it was actually the Saturday closest to that. that was the day i moved into my first apartment on my own. and it's when i started to truly take control of my own life.
i had never had my own place. ever. i lived with my parents until i went to college, i had roommates, and then i had a husband. the living space had never been Mine. not until then.
there's something very powerful about the energy of the space you live in. if you share that space, you are to some degree defined or restricted by the other people there. and i hadn't realized just how powerful that energy is up til then.
there were a lot of events leading up to my decision to move out. the details might make a good story, i guess. but they aren't all that important. the bit that is important is that i felt stifled where i was, and decided that something had to change.
i remember the conversations leading up to the decision, and that day. i remember nearly every apartment i looked at (some were atrocious - ask me about the Pepto Bismol garden studio some time). the night i found this one, ChicaBeanie looked with me. it was cramped, and dirty, and full of garbage. we walked out, and i was undecided. 'babe, you can work with Ugly. just look at the space.' that decided it. i signed the lease a few days later.
my landlords scrubbed this place within an inch of its life (or theirs, not sure which), refinished the floors, painted everything including the dark wood paneling in the kitchen, got me a one-person sized baby fridge (i can reach the top of it, which is important), and Built Me a Closet. built me a closet! he built it out into the kitchen, and when i moved in all the furniture, i discovered that the china cabinet fit exactly against the wall that the closet created. i took it as a good omen.
i went over to the apartment several times before moving day, to see how things were going. one night, after the floors were done, i came in, turned on all the lights, and sat in the middle of the living room floor, just feeling the space. there was a lot of it. and it was going to be my space, soon. it was an odd, nervous-making, exhilarating feeling.
i went back a few times after that, once to hang curtains in the kitchen. this was an unusual sign of domesticity for me. i never have curtains, just blinds. but i wanted something in that space, in that kitchen, to mark it as mine. actually, i didn't even do it myself. i brought over a guy friend and directed him. i suppose that makes me June Cleaver, doesn't it? ;)
moving day itself was rainy and cold. my friends turned out in droves to help. chris was only there long enough to help pack the truck, but that was just long enough. he caters, and is used to packing trucks to the gills. he helped fit *everything* into that truck. i still don't know how he did it. earned him a six pack and my undying affection.
i remember brian coming off the truck and asking '*how* many more boxes of books do you have?' at that point, i proably had 50 or so boxes. textbooks, some of them. this did not endear me to brian. ;)
and now i've been here for nearly 4 years. i've been very protective of my space. not many people get to come in. i did want my parents to come see it, to give it that stamp of 'you're an adult' approval. it took nearly two years, and when they finally came up for brunch, i realized that i no longer needed the approval. it was just nice to have them visit.
more than anything, more than having a job or getting married or getting divorced, living on my own has let me step forward and become more my own person. i feel comfortable in my own skin here in a way that i hadn't before. there are no eyes to judge, no disapproving looks, no expectations other than mine. i can sit in front on the computer all night, or bake brownies at midnight, or call a friend and catch up, or decide to finally do some chores. and the decisions are mine.
i spent a long time answering to other people's ideas of what my role should be, first as daughter, then as roommate, then as wife. those ideas never really matched up with who i am, who i could become. maybe it says more about the others than it does about me. that choice to move out, to defend my needs and wants, is still the most important thing i've ever done. and there's a lot more of the journey to discover. but i feel planted, secure, more able to choose with whom i share my life, and on what terms.