How I Learned To Stay In One Place

When my landlord rang the doorbell, I turned off the lights. It was my strategy for more things than I cared to admit: run, avoid, delete. I knew what she wanted. She wanted to prepare the paper work or if not, call a real estate agent. But did I want to stay?

I loved my apartment. I'd found it after an exhaustive search and knew the moment I stepped inside that it was right. High ceilings, wood floors, a fireplace. It had just about everything I wanted, which was crazy. The crazier thing was that I qualified to have it without a co-signer agreeing to hand over a first born if I bolted. Somehow it was mine, a grown up apartment, and I wasn't sure I wanted it anymore.

I think being in the second half of your 20s is like that: You have the keys to become stable and secure, yet there are moments when you want to turn off the lights and hide from it. The things you've told yourself you want are right in front of you, but you can't help but want to go back to the time when you lived off Starbucks gift cards and weren't sure how things would work one day to the next.

It would be the first time I'd ever stayed in the same place for over a year. And it terrified me -- the idea of permanence. It's ironic, really, if you know me. I am a creature of habit down to the second I eat my dinner. Usually, the same exact dinner. I love routines, and in various stages of my life, I have clung to them while everything was swirling out of control. Lately, I'd been looser because things felt as if they were falling into place. At least the edge pieces of the puzzle were assembled. I woke up a little later. If I saw a friend on the street and they asked me to grab dinner, I said okay instead of dreading the ways in which it would mess up all of my precious plans (plans like microwave peas and conditioning masks). But despite my borderline OCD habits, staying still had always proved problematic. I liked to press reset, change settings, and start over somewhere where there were new stories to be had.

I had many apartments throughout my 20s, and I didn't see any as more than a temporary stop. I viewed my friendships and relationships the same way. I was determined to keep moving, so I saw no point in attaching myself to anyone, anything, anyplace. I had friends to go out with on Saturday nights, boys to go home with, and an address to tell the cab driver in the morning. And wasn't that what your early 20s should be? I was determined to take it all in, so that when I stopped moving, I was sure that it was where I was meant to be. I think each time I moved I got a bit closer to what I wanted -- though without fail I would pack up and leave before anything could take hold.

Moving to New York was a big step, and then last year I refined it a bit further, rented moving trucks, and moved to my apartment in Williamsburg. Instantly I became my own detective agency, hunting for clues, continually wondering if this was it. My home? I'd gotten to the point where I'd finally started to feel like myself in my own skin, and my apartment had become evidence of this. It was entirely me, down to the weird junk in the refrigerator and collection of camouflage jackets. I saw the piece . When I went to parties at night, I didn't feel an overwhelming need to stay out of a fear that I'd miss something. There were less about-last-night stories and more furniture.

After a year of it however, I'd started to feel antsy about the entire thing. Signing a new lease felt like permanence, and it terrified me. There was something about pressing reset that still appealed to me. I liked getting lost. I liked the messy romanticism of one night stands and peanut butter sandwiches. In a backwards way I liked having my transitory lifestyle to blame for the fact that I didn't have some of the things that I'd watched my friends accumulate: houses, babies, cars, dogs, boyfriends that returned their phone calls, dental insurance, full sized beds. Instead, I had a few good stories.

I'm still not sure which way is better. And maybe that is what your late 20s are, too: You're still looking. The puzzle is starting to come together, but you still have to figure out what the picture looks like. I know that I will sign my lease, stay for another year and take a look at where I am. For whatever reason, it feels right to be here now -- or maybe it feels harder to be here now, and and that is why I know it is right.


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