Friday, September 25, 2009

Leaving Home For Home

At long last I am giving up my bachelorette nest in the hills. This is the sunny, quiet refuge I’ve called home for nearly six years. Leaving isn’t easy.

I knew I needed to be in my neighborhood the first time I had coffee there. I was living down by the beach and feeling alienated by the transient, shallow, vapid culture near the sand. If I went to coffee I got glares from the Paris Hilton clones and the only conversation to be heard was centered on the latest jeans brand or MAC lip-gloss color to buy. I also turned out to be the only English speaker on my block which didn’t exactly foster a sense of belonging to my community.

One day after work I stopped for coffee with a friend in the hills. As nursed my latte I heard a conversation on one side of me about art history and on the other side about politics. My people! I thought. Here you are! I asked the barista what the neighborhood was called and plugged that into my Westside Rentals search that night.

I walked into my apartment and knew it was mine. It was the top apartment in a little Italian-style 1920s triplex. It had pale yellow walls, windows on three sides and a teeny balcony with French doors off the bedroom. I walked straight up to the landlady who was showing people around and told her it was my apartment and what did she need from me to make it official? I think she knew I would love it and care for it the way she wanted. She shooed the rest of the lookers out and handed me a rental application.

Over the years I have developed deep ties with the community and they’ve been there for me in ways I thought people didn’t bother with anymore. We’ve laughed together over the riddles of life, cried together over personal pains and shared many a glass of wine simply enjoying the quiet companionship of a starry evening. It feels like family.

When the fiancée and I started talking about moving in I panicked. Wasn’t there some way he could sell his spacious two bedroom condo and move into my one bedroom rental? Didn’t that make sense in some parallel universe? I think because I’ve lived far from my own family for so many years I was especially reluctant to give up this created one. What if I lose them and then we’re just adrift in this new neighborhood not knowing anyone. Not belonging.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” my fiancée sighs, “you create community wherever you go. It’s not the place, it’s you.” He’s sort of right. I have already befriended many people in his neighborhood – our neighborhood, in our building and at our local Trader Joe’s. I’ve already found my hiking routes and invited neighbors in for cocktails.

In fact if I look at it another way, I can be glad to go. Yes, I had some of the best chosen family ever in that neighborhood, but I’ve also let some of the worst people come into my life there (listen to your first intuition, girls!). The evil sub-letter, the stalker ex, the bad business decision; I can breathe a sigh of relief to know they won’t be walking distance from my life anymore.

Besides leaving my hills ‘hood family, I worried leaving my single girl pad meant I’d be losing some part of me that made me fabulous as a single girl, some part that made me me.

As I organized my vintage typewriters and fountain pens onto a shelf next to my antique bottles filled with dirt from my favorite hiking trails, I saw the other side of the coin. As I close the single-girl chapter of my life, I get to discover my married-girl self and take that next step into a partnership and a life that I’ve been hoping and wishing for since I first fell for John Schneider. It’s the promise of that step that finally loosens my fingers’ grip on the old keys and lets them slip back into my landlady’s palm.

It’s been a year of tough transitions and it’s time to say goodbye to my nest. It feels like leaving an old friend. Thank you for keeping me safe and happy for so long. I’ll miss you.

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