Apartment-versary

Apartment

A year ago today, Caleb and I packed the last of our boxes, watched as movers emptied our Somerville apartment, dropped our keys in the landlady’s mail box, and followed the moving truck to our new apartment in Providence.  We carried boxes up to our third floor “Victorian Treehouse” (our tree-line view inspired this nickname), debated the ideal placement of our bed, and mourned our beloved hand-me-down red couch as we realized that it wouldn’t fit through our narrow doorway.  At the end of the day, exhausted, we ate Indian food at a now-favorite local whole-in-the-wall gem.   

While my predominant thought at the moment is how glad I am that we’re spending the day in a coffee shop writing instead of bleeding money, sweat and tears in the moving process, I’m also feeling reflective as I consider the year that we have had in Providence.  Anniversaries, like holidays, endings, and beginnings, are a good opportunity to look back on the past, feel appreciation for the present and look towards the future.  And I think that this act of looking back, examining the lowlights and the highlights, can help me to soak in the beauty of the present and move forward with energy, joy, and grit. 

Historic Homes Providence
Photo credit: America Pink

Hard stuff about my first year in Providence

  • I was homesick for Boston for much of the year, and if I am being completely honest, much as I have come to love Providence, there are things that I still miss so, so much about my old city.  I miss the MBTA.  I miss the vibrancy of my old Church.  I just miss the specifics of Boston: the old brownstones of Commonwealth Ave and the lively activity of Harvard Square and the rarified air of the Boston Public Library and narrow little streets of Beacon Hill. 
  • It was crazy hard to make friends, and so I felt lonely for a lot of the year.  I’ve made some friends and am building relationships, but I still don’t feel at my old-social-level.
  • Working at a job that requires a significant commute and a significant amount of evening and weekend hours is less than ideal.  It presented a stumbling block socially. 

Highlights of my year in Providence

  • There is good, good food in this city.  We could go to a new restaurant every week and still have more to explore.  There is great coffee shop culture, and a huge variety of food, and lots of places with amazing ambiance as well as eats. 
  • Being able to live in a place where we can afford a beautiful apartment is a gift.  I love our sunny kitchen, and our spacious dining area, and our cozy living room.  I love our gallery wall and my yellow desk and our little parking spot and our wood-paneled stair case.
  • I’ve found special, life-giving communities in my new city.  The two that come to mind are the Chaplaincy Center, though which I’ve gotten the opportunity to work in a variety of clinical settings and meed a wide range of people whose work and ways of being I admire, and the Providence Atheneum, that gorgeous little library that also serves as a magnet for smart, witty and creative people. 
  • Having a car (which we likely would never have in Boston) enabled Caleb and I to explore the New England area more, which brought us a lot of fun this year.  Favorite trips included Portland, the Cape, Newport and Bristol. 
  • I love living in a walkable city. Even though Caleb and I have a car, we more or less only use it when taking trips, or when I commute to work.  This feels like a priority for me in terms of places that I live. 
  • This city is clean and has beautiful architecture and landscaping.  I really value being in an aesthetically pleasing environment. 

Lessons that I’ve learned/Themes of the year

  • There’s no way out but through: moving is hard, making friends is hard, starting from scratch in terms of networking is hard.  It will always be hard before it becomes easy.
  • Things take time: building a sense of community, making friends, and finding special places.
  • Distance relationships with people I love are worth spending time and money on nurturing.  Having a car made driving to visit my family and friends in PA possible, and so I found myself going often.  The time and energy are worth it.  The same goes for friendships in Boston.  It’s worth spending money on a commuter rail ticket to meet a friend for coffee; it’s worth driving in to the city to meet with my old book club.
  • “Going for it” with persistency is hard, but worth it.  I have a hard time pushing myself to put myself out there.  It feels scary and exhausting.  But that’s the only way to meet new people, get integrated in a community and take on new roles. 

It’s so long

The_goldfinch_by_donna_tartThe page-turner metaphor doesn’t work with audio books, but if it did, I’d be using it for The Goldfinch.  To say that the audio book version of Donna Tartt’s pulitzer-prize winning novel has got me excited for my daily commute would be an understatement.  I can’t wait to find out what happens next in the life of Theodore Decker, the book’s young-adult protagonist.

I’m about halfway through the novel, and already Theo has experienced tragedy, abuse, homelessness and grief.  Where I left off, Theo is basking in a reprieve from the trauma as he finds refuge in an elderly friend’s home, but as I look at the screen of my car-audio system and see that I’m only on disk 14 of 26, I feel anxious and aching.  The book is so much longer, something bad is bound to happen.

That’s how I feel about life sometimes.  It’s so long, something bad is bound to happen.  I’m twenty-seven-years-old, and I have yet to experience hardship in any deep sense.  I’ve lost grandparents, an aunt, a dog; I’ve been rejected from schools and jobs; I’ve broken an ankle, failed tests, and been teased.  But by all accounts, I’ve been undisturbed by the anguishes that I know are ultimately inevitable in a life — the deaths of those nearest and dearest to me, health problems, financial or employment concerns, and accidents or natural disasters.  In other words, though I have faced hardship, my life hasn’t been shattered yet.  But it, like The Goldfinch, will presumably be long, and therefore something bad is bound to happen.

I’m going to take the advice, then, that I am yearning to give Theo.  Lean on the people who you know have your back.  Terribly sad events will likely befall you, but there are people who love you.  Don’t be afraid to turn to them for reprieve and help.  Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or knock on the door of an old friend.  And when you make your way into his patchwork and musky den, rest in the warmth and soak in the care.  Life is long.  Something bad is bound to happen.  And there will be people and light there to catch you when it does. 

Making life enjoyable

“Be happy for this moment.  This moment is your life.” — Omar Khayyam

This past weekend, I went home to Pennsylvania for a weekend of my sister Clare’s pre-wedding festivities.  On Saturday afternoon through Sunday, I hosted a bachelorette party (complete with a bridal party yoga class, dinner at a little Italian place, lots of bachelorette games and boozy punch, and a good-old-fashioned-sleepover in my parents’ home), and then on Sunday, the mother of Clare’s childhood best friend (who also happened to be my three siblings’ and my kindergarten teacher) hosted a gorgeous bridal shower in her home.  After the shower, we returned to my parents’ house for a family cookout.

During the planning stages of the weekend, I called the shower hostess to rsvp, ask if there was anything that I could do to help, and thank her for offering to host.  Graciously, she exclaimed that she was so happy to be able to offer a shower, saying “I am delighted by Clare and Katie’s lifelong friendship, and your family’s friendship means so much to me; celebrating these friendships and milestones are what makes life enjoyable.” 

These words deeply resonated with me.  Celebrating friendships, celebrating milestones — celebrating people and moments — are what make life enjoyable.  We each just have one life to live, and that life moves quickly, and that life can be really hard at times.  Why not make it a point to take the time and energy and effort to enjoy it through celebrating meaningful relationships and moments?