If one person tells you a thing, take it with a grain of salt. If two, your ears should perk up. If three, four…
Well, you get the picture. They may be onto something.
Where I live, my physical apartment, is one of my favorite places to be in the world right now. I have traveled to a fair number of places on the planet, but 1) I would never call myself a “world traveller” and 2) there are still many more places that I would love to get to but I’ve already accepted that I probably will not make it.
I’m okay with that. Why?
I can now admit that in recent years, my travel, in hindsight, had a slight cast of desperation. I don’t need to rehash the past, but I was definitely looking for a place or space to call home, and every time I went to a new city: Seattle, Chicago, Portland, Newport, Austin, Atlanta, D.C., Boston, Boulder, Dublin, Ghent, Rome… (the list is longer), I was hoping for that spark of “ah, here it is!”
While that could happen, and there were definite hints of “this feels nice” – I liked Chicago – I was looking for something that could only start from within and required more work to create than a few hours / days of passing through could manage. It wasn’t wholly about the place itself; it was also about me.
Last year, I found it, and here I am and I love it. But, as my friends have come to visit – two times, three times, and immediately scheduling their next visits as they’re leaving – all of them have walked through my door and this scene repeated:
“Oh, I’m home.” [deep, deep, relaxed, sigh]
I think I got something right.
Part of it, I believe, is that they are coming from NYC – which is a faster, more stressful, anxiety-producing, crowded, consumerist hell than D.C. could ever, or I think would ever, aspire to be. NYC is a city of shadows so very much because of those tall buildings. It is a city hems you in, and you are pressed upon everywhere. It’s baseline, it’s the norm, I get it, I’m from there – it’s the truth of what it is.
But here in D.C., the city allows you to spread out, to breathe, to walk down streets that aren’t super-crowded, and to be in apartments which aren’t glorified closets. Just by the nature of what it is, The District itself is a mini-holiday for my friends.
But, the other part of it, and it took a late night conversation with my current friend visiting, more than one scotch, and more than one bottle of wine to get to the bottom of, is that I’m different and so I created a space that reflects those changes in me. I’ve created a space that is a respite from everything outside, but is somehow not a fortress, just inviting and comfortable. It’s not a museum. It is not a picture perfect monument to West Elm or Simply Living; it’s personal and warm.
It’s the sofa that lulls you to sleep. It’s the quiet that allows you to think. It’s the space that allows you to walk around, to be separate but also not alone. It has a hearth and a heart.
The last few days, I’ve had overlapping friend visits. My work schedule has not been accommodating. The holiday involved more than an hour of doing work-related things. I have a trip to Richmond coming up, 1-2 required appearances in NYC, and a few work trips ahead that will have me breathing more than my fair share of recycled air.
But, I’m sticking to my resolution to not be away for more than 2 days at a time. I’m sticking to loving my new home: I’ve started volunteering with this mentoring program for high school students, I’ll be rehearsing my story this weekend for an upcoming performance in February, and I’m going swimming tonight with my buddy because that’s an easy thing to do here in The District. “What do you want to do tonight before you leave tomorrow?” “Let’s go for a swim?” “Cool!”
Despite all the noise and nonsense to be found daily in the news, despite all the craziness happening in the world, and despite all the things that one could be anxious and worried about, the things that could keep me up at night, all of the responsibilities and obligations that I have and must meet, when I’m in this apartment of mine, when I’m in my home–
I feel at peace. It all feels doable and within my reach. Everything is possible. This place is, and I feel like, an oasis of calm.
I’ve become still waters; I run deep.