So, I meant to start this blog with a nice, organized, maybe even clever (let’s face it, probably not) introductory post, but instead I am finding myself moved to address the most immediate happenings in my life. Maybe that’s a good thing? Anyway, stay tuned for an actual introduction some… other time. Here goes!
I’m moving in with my boyfriend two years this week. This might seem like a good thing — and it is; we’re moving in together because we’re in the process of buying a house and in the planning stages of starting a family. These are all good things, but in the meantime, I’m also taking a moment to mourn my single-girl apartment.
My single-girl apartment is a place that feels exactly like ME. For the first few years, it felt more exactly like just another college dorm or shared apartment – you can choose your bedspread and what order to put your books in, and maybe tack up a few photos, but try not to leave too many permanent traces: it’s not yours. Over the years, I’ve slowly realized that, actually, as long as I repaint everything back to white when I leave, this place could be at least a little bit mine. I untacked pictures, put them in frames, and actually nailed them into the walls. I painted one of the walls a very classy (if I say so myself) and soothing light grey, and another one a very corny light blue that pretty much only I like. (But that’s the whole point: I like it and so it can be here, in my single-girl apartment.)
In a sort of reverse-Marie Kondo situation, everything sparks joy in my apartment, not because I’ve thrown out all the things that don’t, but because it’s come to be a part of the homey-feeling scenery.
My single-girl apartment is a place of comforting rituals. It’s a place where the evening starts when I turn the key in the lock, turn on a few soft lamps (the brighter overhead light means working time; the lamps mean work is over), step out of my shoes and into my comfy clothes, and scrape my hair up and away from my face. Evenings mean listening to a podcast while I get dinner ready and knowing that I don’t have to answer to anyone until at least the next day. It’s a place where mornings mean the freedom to wake up slowly over my first cup of coffee, browsing blogs (the ones that inspired me to finally make this one!) and looking over my planner to get ready for the day. It’s a place that I have a million small, unnoticeable-to-anyone-else habit-rituals, like always cleaning it in the same sequence (because it’s the sequence that makes the most sense to me) and, when I’m feeling energetic, ending by mopping myself onto the rug to do a workout video while the floor dries.
Sometimes I think that my single-girl apartment has been exactly perfect for me in these past almost ten years: in a world that sometimes feels too loud and invasive for this introvert, it has been a place where I could close the door with a sigh of relief, knowing that I don’t have to open it again for anyone until I choose to. It’s been a place where I could take off my jeans or work clothes or squeezy shoes and wrap myself up in comfy sweatpants and blankets. It’s been a place where I can spend hours or days working from home, perfectly content in my aloneness with the sound of conversations floating up from the sidewalk below and the school across the street for company.
My single-girl apartment is on the edges of the city center of this medium-small northern Italian town where I live, a five minute walk from the main town squares and a (brisk) ten-minute walk from the train station. (Okay, it’s fifteen minutes, but you can make it in 11-ish if you hustle and don’t mind being sweaty and red-faced when you actually get to the platform). It’s a place I’ve often left early to speed-walk to the train station and then to the airport for an adventure. While I was discovering that my single-girl apartment could hold just exactly the colors I like best, I also discovered that my money could pay for exactly the travelling I like best. My single-girl apartment welcomed me back from my single-girl travels: big adventures to Thailand and Japan and Norway, countless amazing weekends with friends around Italy, and to Copenhagen, Edinburgh, London, Oxford, Barcelona, Seville, Budapest, Berlin and who can even remember where else. (My fellow Americans. Living in Europe… it’s crazy, because you can go all those places literally for the weekend. For relatively cheap.)
In my single-girl apartment, my boyfriend would initially come to visit and then he would leave, and I would close the door behind him and slowly come down from the breathy and overwhelming high of connecting to another person. Now he stays, and I carve out my recovery alone-time from within the same space as him. We plan our vacations together, and in our new house, we will plan the colors and what goes on the walls together, too. Sometimes we will use my carefully chosen bedspreads, and sometimes we will use his, whose colors don’t say sleep at all, to me, but that’s compromise, right?
This often seems overwhelming to me, but I think it’s also really easy to remember the golden times of my single-girl apartment, and forget the less golden ones. When the blissful, relaxing sensation of evenings alone lapsed into dark loneliness. When weekends seemed to stretch out for endless hours that I carefully filled with tasks and activities to hide the lack of people. When the non-friend travel adventures often saw me eating alone in hotel rooms.
Saying good-bye to my single-girl apartment is also kind of saying good-bye to my single-girl life, and I did not dislike my single-girl life, so perhaps that’s why I’m finding this hard. Goodbye to the years of carefree, solo travel, to the seasons of working myself to exhaustion or spending entire days on the couch without having to worry about the impact on anyone else. And as I choose to be with this person, in this place, and hopefully start a family, goodbye to the possibility of other places and other families and other lives. (I know: I’m being melodramatic and of course other possibilities are still out there and neither moving in with someone nor even starting a family with them seals your fate forever, but… it does feel like big changes.)
All that said, as I write this, the boyfriend is sleeping in the next room and now instead of feeling overwhelming, that feels cozy. Soon he’ll wake up and we’ll engage in a wonderfully Italian Saturday morning of walking around the town center and eventually stopping for breakfast. It’s a perfect sunny autumn day, and we’re not in complete lockdown (yet), and really, this Saturday morning ritual is far better holding hands with him than it ever was alone with a podcast for company.
As I say good-bye to my single-girl apartment and my single-girl life and my single-girl self, I suspect and I fervently hope that lots of things in life will be better holding hands.