A year ago exactly, I was fresh from a breakup involving a lot of yelling, and crashing at my best friend’s apartment in Murray Hill. I needed to find an apartment fast.
I wanted a place I could call all my own, something with charm–even if it was dilapidated charm. I wanted a place, as I told my friends, “Where I don’t have to deal with roommates, and I don’t have to move out until I get back from my honeymoon!”
Well, I was charmed as soon as the broker opened the little iron gate to the mini courtyard. Charmed as we walked up the staircase with the raw brick wall and framed black and white photos of Union Square and the building right after it was built in the twenties, with what looks like a Model T out front.
I was charmed when she showed me into this studio. It had a little non-working marble fireplace, a bathroom with turquoise tile, a kitchen that was small, yes, but decent with the addition of a butchers block. It camed furnished with bland but not ugly Ikea furniture. This was great, as I was completely sans furniture and the idea of going out and finding new stuff made me feel tired. The ceilings were high, like, Parisian-apartment high. I looked out the window into the boughs of a leafy tree and the quiet street below. Finally, it was $100 less per month than the one-bedroom apartment below, which made it just barely affordable.
“I’ll take this one,” I told the broker.
My Castle in the Sky
Obviously, as a furnished apartment, it’s really meant for people living her for only six months or a year. But I quickly set about making it my own. After a little move-in mishap involved quinoa flour, sesame seeds and agave nectar all over the courtyard, I went to work like the daughter of an interior designer I am.
I dismantled the crappy desk and shoved the parts in the back of the closet, opting for a real wood secretary desk. I stripped the bed of the mustard colored provided linens and replaced them with organic patterned ones. I bought two sustainably-made ottoman cubes in custom fabric from ABC Home for the living space, and matching pillows. I made my mom cart our antique ice box up to new york to serve as a well-appointed liquor cabinet. I hung my artwork, bought rugs, pots and pans and a pot and pan wall holder. I painted an accent wall pink and hung Tibetan prayer flags on it like festive bunting. I turned this apartment into my home.
I threw parties, threw the murphy bed up to do yoga, leaned out the window to drop my keys down to visitors, cooked food in the little kitchen that I brought back from the farmers market in Unions Square, and read the New York Times on Saturday curled up on the couch wrapped in the t-shirt blanket my mom made for me. Friends crashed on the couch, bed and floor. This apartment has heard me laugh and cuss and–just twice–cry hysterically. And it made me feel like a grownup, like it gave me space to stretch out become the person I wanted to be.
I was lucky enough to report on a feng shui story for work, and the consultant agreed to take a look at my apartment. She instructed me to move some things around. “Single women” were to get out of my relationship area, so I moved pictures of my grandmother and mother to the other side. I hung my watercolor prints of stylized Barbies in gowns to my “fame” and “career” area and hung mementos of things that represented success for my blog in the corner. In my “wealth” corner, I put up pictures of friends, mementos of travel and foreign money. And my spirituality corner got a big overhaul. I bought a pretty print of a couple on a tandem bike and constructed Love artwork out of flower images from a gardening magazine for my “relationship” corner.
So did it work? Well, I did travel to see a friend. And then got roofied. I’ve been dating a lot, but none of the boys have bowled me over. And even though I hung an all metal wind chime at my door to block bad energy, the bad energy just started coming up through the floor.
About five months ago the attractive couple below me moved out (probably forced out for loud yelling and loud lovemaking, since that apartment is right above the landlord) and a new girl moved in straight from California. I stopped by and introduced myself to her, gave her my cell phone and told her that if she ever need anything, not to hesitate to text. (Big mistake.) I even invited her out with me one night. My friend A and I helped her choose a dress, and then left her to get dressed. When she came up a few minutes later, she said she could hear her name when we were talking about her. That was alarming, but I didn’t think about it much.
Then her texts started.
“Girly, could you turn down the music?” OK, fine. It’s 10 PM on a Sunday and I understand my bass box was above her bedroom. I turned it off, and moved my computer speakers and bass to the opposite side of the apartment and at the top of the murphy bed.
“R u in heels … waaaaahhh. I understand you like to try on shoes, but can you not wear them around the apartment?”
Fine. I started trying on my shoes and then taking them back off and placing them by the door until I left.
“Seriously girl, trying to pre-game nap. Please. Not trying to be a pain in the ass, but I have to go to sleep when u do, I wake up when u come home and throw your heels on the ground, in the am at 745 smashing the murphy bed up and down.”
I bought a rug. And stopped playing, getting-ready-to-go-out music.
One morning I ran into her leaving her apartment. “Why were you up at 6:45?” she said. “I couldn’t sleep! I could hear you opening and closing your drawers.” I hurried on to work after half-apologizing. (Sorry, not sorry. I have the right to open and close my drawers and get up WHENEVER I WANT.)
One Saturday I came home around three in the afternoon and threw on some music. Not loudly, just at a level that’s normal. My phone pinged. I tensed up, my blood pressure swooshing into action.
“Napping please! Music bass waah!”
I turned it down.
Two friends came to visit. We stopped by the farmers market for food for dinner, and puttered around the apartment, taking showers and cooking up dinner.
My phone pinged. “Please just sit down!! Waaah! For 3hours there is thuud trop. Thud move furniture, I’m trying to sleep.”
I read this and decided to ignore it. Nobody tells my friends and I to sit down when we’re just going about our normal business. I mean, really, can you think of anything more innocuous than frying up bluefish and making a beet salad? Plus, does this girl ever not sleep? Is she depressed or something? It’s a good thing I didn’t tell Crazy A, because she told me later that had she known, she would found some heavy objects and then climbed on a chair to drop them from on high.
The next weekend, I came home in the afternoon and put on some yoga music for an hour session on the mat. My phone pinged.
“Could you please lower the music? You have to know a volume I can hear and wake up to by now. Please. Stop being so selfish.”
I ignored her. Here’s my view, and comment if you think I’m wrong, but if you are in the habit of taking midday naps on the weekends in New York City, you should buy ear plugs, period. If I can’t play music at a normal level at 4pm on a weekend, when can I play music? Can I just not play music at all? More frustrating, I would leave my apartment where I had been tiptoeing around, cringing if a mug fell on the floor, and arrive at a friend’s apartment where the three-foot-tall speakers were thumping out drum and bass music. No problem from the neighbors whatsoever. I was not being selfish. I was walking on eggshells, rearranging my life to suit her. And still, she continued to harass me.
She complained to my landlord, and my landlord started making noises about not renewing my lease in August. I had planned on staying, but once I started thinking about it, I wondered if this was right for me. I’m paying a lot for the privilege of living alone. (And actually not really living alone, as the girl below me made abundantly clear.) And this beautiful apartment feels indulgent for someone who is just 25. I don’t feel like I deserve it, to be honest.
This Is Just too Good
So I decided to see what was out there, and threw up something on Facebook, saying I was looking for a roommate. Less than 12 hours later, I was communicating with dear friend of my dear friend. Let’s call her E. She:
- Is located five blocks away, still within walking distance of work and my dear Union Square farmers market
- Is looking for a roommate for a lease starting in August, when my lease runs out
- Keeps a fastidious apartment, with minimal but nice furniture and–to put it bluntly–free of random ugly crap
- Is really super nice and accommodating
- Has a serious boyfriend (hence she’ll be out of the apartment a lot)
The apartment has:
- Laundry on the same floor
- An expansive finished roof
E is even letting me help her redecorate the living room to suit my taste–actually she proposed we redecorate together.
Oh, and it is 66% of my current rent. Hallelujah, let’s go shopping. (The only drawback? I know have to tell people I live in Murray Hill. I’ve officially joined the hoards of Young Professionals.)
It seemed too perfect. Like the universe was telling me, “It’s time to move on now.”
Will I Regret This?
My current little apartment isn’t super luxurious. I’ve developed a system where if the water pressure sputters while I’m showering, I jump out of the water and count to forty, until the freezing water has passed. It’s poorly insulated and freezing in the winter. It has a murphy bed, which is just never cool unless I’m throwing it up to make room for beer pong. I have to carry my bike up and down three flights of stairs. I can buzz people in and I can’t even talk to them, since the intercom broke. It has zero amenities, except maybe an unfinished roof with no view that I’m pretty sure I’m not actually allowed to go up on. But this apartment is mine. And I’m sad to leave it behind.
I’m worried about having a roommate again. What if I’ve developed quirks? I can’t walk around naked anymore, leave the bathroom door open or arrive home at 3 AM, five people in tow. (I mean, I only did that twice, but it’s nice to know I can.)
It will be nice to say hi to someone at the end of the day, and share a bottle of wine. To cook up dinner and serve half to someone else instead of storing all of it to get thrown out later. But I also like knowing that if there are dishes in the sink, it’s my own damn fault and I’ll get to them when I get to them.
I guess I kind of like the idea of moving again, though. It’s a chance to clean out all my stuff, move things around and look at my life from a different angle. And this feels like the responsible thing to do.
I guess I just have faith in my ability to be happy in almost any situation. After all, people’s base line happiness is almost always the same despite outside circumstances, right? That’s what psychology says.
Of course, there’s an adjustment period.
I guess I’ll just have to check back in a year from now and tell you how it’s worked out.
What do you think? Am I seriously downgrading or is this a smart move?