Renting in Washington, DC, is like setting large stacks of money ablaze. I guess it’s a good thing my apartment has a fireplace.
I have a bad romance with this city. I love it and it drives me crazy. I’m pretty sure taking a break one day will be good for both of us. Not so great for Schneider’s Liquor, but they’ll recover from the loss of my biweekly bourbon purchase.
But like any bad romance, there are those few delicious perks that keep me coming back. One of them is my apartment.
On the day I moved in, my mom looked around the place and said, “This is the kind of apartment I used to imagine living in with my sister if we were single girls in the city.” It was the first time I’d ever stopped and really thought about the fact that my mom — and many other women of her generation — moved straight from her parents’ home into her married home.
I live in the kind of apartment that I thought only existed in sitcoms: the (relatively) affordable, spacious, adorable home right in the center of the city, the perfect backdrop for my twenty-something antics. It’s a joke to call any apartment in DC “cheap,” but this one is under the market rate for the neighborhood (don’t tell my landlord). And have I mentioned it’s huge? Two floors, 1.5 baths, a deck, in-unit washer and dryer, and a window seat in my bedroom. Pardon me, I tend to gush about the ones I love.
I said it: I love my apartment, and I mean love, not simply strongly like. We have a relationship that goes deeper than superficial attraction. A lot of people just casually date their apartments. Obsessing over real estate is a common hobby in DC, and I’m guilty. But this time, I’ve made a commitment. Its square footage seduced me, but it’s the memories that have kept me, the things I’ve learned between its walls. I’ve always had a superstitious feeling that somehow, the apartment itself was participating in those times. That the notched banisters, the sticky door and the rattly door, and the mysterious patches on the ceiling have encouraged me, congratulated me on my successes and sympathized with my tears like the best of friends. It’s not a setting, but a character in my story.
I may not own it, but this is my place. It represents this season of my life, when I finally got my feet on the ground, financially and emotionally. It represents an independence I chose, and worked hard for. A moment that I didn’t want to glide past.
Eventually I’ll have to move. I could right now — I’ve heard tempting rumors of other neighborhoods with dramatically lower rent, and the money I could save could enable me to pursue many new projects and adventures. I’ll do all those things one day, maybe soon. But despite the incrementally increasing rent and persistent maintenance problems, for now I have to stay with the one I love. Whenever I look at other places, I feel like my apartment itself is telling me it’s not time to leave yet. There is beauty in this moment of time, that I’m as likely to miss as anyone in my frenzy to find the better place, the better job, the shorter commute, the nicer appliances, the sexier address.
Am I really too young to hit pause for a little while and look back on my little life so far? I’m the kind of person who feels like she hasn’t actually experienced something until she’s had a little space to breathe and reflect. This is the season of my life that I live in the place my mom had always dreamed of living in, if she’d been a single girl in the city. That’s important.
This season isn’t over, and there’s no need to rush it.