Your first apartment.
No one forgets what it was like– Small, large, cramped, shared, spacious, noisy, off-the-beaten-path.
After college, I was commuting from my parents’ home just outside of the city every single day. I would drive from their home to the Palisades Mall in West Nyack. From there, a bus would take me and countless other working-class zombies across the Hudson to Tarrytown, where we would file off the bus and onto the miserable, concrete platform. From there, a decently reliable Metro-North train would shuttle us to Grand Central Terminal. This whole process, from door-to-door, took about three hours.
During the winter, I was repeatedly late for work because of construction on the Tappan Zee Bridge– worst bridge in America– and the weather conditions made travel hazardous. I began looking for apartments, which turned into my grandparents offering me an old space above one of their stores that has been unoccupied for years.
The place was not perfect, but it was an amazing space, and gave me the unmatched experience of living alone, dealing with family politics, living in a space that I will never again be able to afford, and living in such proximity to one of the more interesting neighborhoods in Manhattan.
I was able to stretch out and be myself in this space. It was the first apartment I painted on my own, the first place I had to fill with food and daily supplies on my own dollar, the first place I had my first personally owned pet, and the first place that I really explored me.
When chalkboard paint was all the rage in DIY, I painted a part of my wall and it became a centerpiece at gatherings and parties. When I got sick, it was the cave in which I hid from the world. When hurricane Irene hit, it was the fort in which I drank entirely too much sparkling rose. It’s where I experienced my first city-based love, first break up, first major illness, first surgery recovery. I learned go to grow on my own, and heal on my own in this residence.
Firsts always have a place in your heart and memory. While I was living there, I feel as though I took it for granted. It sounds cliche, but if I had lived somewhere else, somewhere more conventional and expected– given my friend’s and other members of of my age group’ chosen neighborhoods– my entire life in New York City would be vastly different. Late-night meals at 69 Bayard, drinks over at Whiskey Tavern, creme puffs at Maria’s, Lychee martinis at Verlaine, and the garlic shrimp at Schiller’s gave me an appreciation for the smaller streets and tiny dining rooms of Manhattan, while keeping me away from living next to one of 1,000 Jamba Juices, Gristedes, or Soul Cycles.
I am happy to say that next week marks seven years in this great city, and I still look back in gratitude and love on my giant first apartment in Chinatown.