I just finished my last solo dance party in my first DC apartment. In the thirteen months I’ve lived here, I’ve had a lot of those. It’s one of those things that reminds me that, oh yeah, I am only 22.
I hand back my copy of the key to my landlord this week. And while I’ve already been living with my new roommate Maxie for a month and my stuff hasn’t been here for a while, it’s just hitting me that moving out means leaving this apartment behind.
The thirteen months I’ve lived here have been a little turbulent. I moved in with a significant other, loved it, hated it, and then watched it all turn to hell. I realized that the college major I’d picked – while fascinating – wasn’t the right career field for me. I struck out on my own then realized I wasn’t ready for entrepreneurship either. I took what was supposed to be a temporary job while I “found myself” and ended up finding myself loving it. I realized where my real future is – in teaching.
I did a juice cleanse for the first time while in this apartment. I started caring about what I put in my body, cut out a lot of processed trash, started eating mostly organic foods, and decided that not all green things are terrible. I found out that I actually kind of like running, and finally, finally got into a yoga routine. I got “too busy” and too obsessed with my job to take care of me then reclaimed that time for myself that had always been built in during school.
While living here, I found a few friends I don’t think I can ever give up, strengthened friendships with some people back home and have watched some of those other bonds start to fade. I dated a much older man, cared too much for someone else – someone I shouldn’t have – and I completely broke someone else’s heart. For God’s sake, I even gave life-long celibacy some serious consideration while I lived here.
I lost someone very close to me while living here: a beautiful, strong woman that helped raised me. And while I’m still not ready to talk about it, I know that my mom is who my grandmother raised her to be, and so every time I speak with her, I’m speaking with my grandmother too, in a way.
I learned two very big lessons while I lived here: The first is that it’s okay to be wrong. I’ve always held myself to ridiculous standards and I hate being wrong. But celibacy? Wrong. Career in politics/non-profits? Wrong. Getting emotionally involved with someone I shouldn’t have? Wildly, ridiculously, borderline-anxiety-attack-inducing-what-the-actual-fuck-was-I-thinking? wrong. And you know what? Everyone may not make the same mistakes, but we all make mistakes. And that – while horrifying in the moment – is as important as it is forgiving.
And the second lesson? I learned to stand up for myself while having solo dance parties in this living room. I learned to stop taking shit from people, and to say no when it needs to be said. I’ve just barely started to grasp the meaning of the phrase, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” I’ve spent a lot of time fighting with myself over the kind of love I think I deserve. (And I’ve read Perks of Being a Wallflower a hundred times.)
I’ve done a lot of crying and a lot of drinking in this apartment. (Sorry, Mom.) But I also learned that finding the bottom of a bottle doesn’t make me feel any better. And tonight, as I walk out and turn off the lights for the last time, I think a little part of me will want to cry again, both for the memories of what transpired here and the freedom to have a dance party whenever the fuck I want.
But that’s what moving out – and moving forward - is, isn’t it? Leaving some things behind to accept and embrace the new things that are coming. We have to hold on to a positive perspective in order to make it through without always looking back. Leaving this apartment and the freedom of living alone means I get to have the company of a roommate (and an adorable cat!) and the financial freedom to save money for grad school.
And hey – I am only 22. I don’t think I’m ready to give up dance parties in my living room yet, if ever.