When I look back at these past few weeks from the quiet future, they will stand out for two reasons. The first is that I had my 25th birthday, and the second is that I unexpectedly lost an apartment I love.
As I take stock of my all my books and shirts for the move, I've been thinking about the ways I've mellowed since my last milestone birthday at 21. That 21-year-old would be so uncomfortable at how regularly I leave work with carryover items on my to-do list, how often I come home and do nothing but eat and go to bed, at how many people are less than pleased with me at this exact moment. Weeks pass and I still manage to feel fine even though I can't point to a single thing I've done that's remarkable. Of course, then something dramatic happens and suddenly, feeling fine becomes an achievement.
Is there anything as invigorating as taking a hard look at your finances? True to my astrological profile, I've never been great with money, but since coming to New York I just hemorrhage it. Nothing affirms that quarter of a century independence like informing your parents that you have organized your life in a way that puts you in a really strong position to field sudden changes in circumstance (not) and that you need their help to stay afloat because your landlord may or may not return your security deposit.
"Maybe a year and a half is our time limit on a place?" my roommate hypothesizes in reference to our college-era digs.
It's our third time looking for an apartment together and we make a good team. There's not a lot on the market in March and given our monetary constraints, it's soon become apparent that our best bet for staying in our increasingly gentrifying neighborhood is a place somewhere over the rainbow.
This is a literal statement. Rainbow is the name of a women's clothing store, and our new apartment is right above it.
The new place is a block away from our old place, so while we're downsizing pretty substantially, we won't have to go through the disruptive changes of giving up our fruit stand, our bakery and our bar. Our concession is giving up the lifestyle of having closets.
In truth, we kind of had this coming (give or take the vanishing eight months on our lease). Relative to how much we pay for it, our current apartment is stupid nice. Like nice the way sitcom apartments are six grades fancier than the characters who live in them nice. Unfortunately, the landlords were not.
In contrast, our new landlord, aka the wizard of Manhattan Ave., is friendly and obliging. He has already agreed to chop off a quarter of the stone countertop so that we can move the fridge out of the living room and into the kitchen.
Life is funny. I spend more time in my corporate cube (6J05) than I do anywhere else, but if you told me right now I could never go back, I don't think I'd feel a thing. To think, all that time I was lamenting to my neighbor in 6J04 that nothing exciting ever happens, little spores were hatching in my basement that would one day grow up to leave me homeless. Because science. Because we are on a wild planet and none of us -- no matter how scripted or cubed -- is safe from it.
It doesn't make sense to have a birthday right now. But I've made another trip around the sun. 6J04's name is Georgia and that's how she says "Happy Birthday." And when you put it like that, it's not something you can exactly ignore.
On my birthday, I sit beside a glow necklace bleeding phosphorescent into a pool of $1 jello shot shells. In this bar, surrounded by my friends, I'm the shortest distance I have been from 21 in a while. There are five birthday parties going on, and I'm glad that everyone I came with is tagged with neon jewelry because I really need to be clear about what is and isn't mine right now. Circles of pink and green and blue orbit like little planets among strangers running familiar scenes -- starry-eyed girls clustered around a black hole deep as the Tao, social meteors, dancing comets, blue moons. It's reminding me of the glow in the dark solar system that's on my bedroom ceiling and my body feels sore.
At 21, my self-concept was so fluid that I would have taken all of this personally, as a punishment or a comment via The World on how nothing I make lasts or how I'm a failure -- and consequently, would have needed to turn it into a transformative experience buttoned up with a valuable lesson such as "Don't worry about f*cking up your life; it will f*ck itself up," or "You can never tell what's really going on with people." By 23, I had turtled inward and would have distanced myself from this experience by shrink-wrapping every aspect of it in analysis (well, every aspect except my own reaction to it).
Supposedly now that I'm 25, my brain has solidified, but all I can think to say is that I'm sad to leave this place where I've been happy so unexpectedly, and I'm angry that there's nothing I can do but listen to the sound of my own fingers tepidly tapping as I write this all out. It seems like a very small way to bring the fire in contrast to how vulnerable all this has made me feel.
Leaving a room you are attached to is to be humbled by walls and space. There are no ugly sequences to replay through the lens of a broken down black-and-white world view, no features on which to project your hurts and insecurities, no score to settle over tenderness lost. This is a simple melancholy that steals over me in quiet moments and makes me weak and lays me bare. I'm quite swept away by it.
But life is already moving forward. Just glancing up from my computer at everything in its proper place -- not even a hint of the action potential that is winding up like an alarm clock inside each object that I own -- I can feel the tug of what comes next; the boxes, trash bags, tape, ladder. Down closet, down pictures, down curtains, down glow stars. This is the rest between movements, the calm before the storm.
Fortunately, word on the street is that in my new apartment troubles melt like lemon drops, so if that means what I think it does, this should all work itself out.