On June 13th of 2015, I landed at John F. Kennedy airport with two suitcases in tow and nothing else. It was a balmy, rainy morning and I did what all people who are moving to New York for the first time must do: I splurged on a yellow cab into the city. Watching the silhouette of Manhattan's goliath skyline glide closer into view through the car's raindrop-dotted window, I understood in my gut that I was home. After less than a week of obsessively scouring Craigslist every single day for an apartment, I found a listing for a room in a West Village three-bedroom apartment. It was a shoebox ("quaint", in real estate speak) but it was in the heart of what is now my most cherished neighborhood. I managed to woo the two roommates who were conducting a series of interviews with prospective tenants and two weeks later I moved in.
This apartment didn't come without its own set of Manhattan-esque dilemmas. I have had: mice, cockroaches, bird mites (don't get me started), pipe leaks, mold, and just about every other type of issue you'd expect living in a 1900-era non-renovated building. But I adore it unconditionally. There's an air of mystery and magic that accompanies residing in the West Village. The zig-zag streets lined with charming homes and elegant restaurants. And the history! There's a reason this area is the birthplace of the Beat and 1960s countercultures and why Carrie Bradshaw's iconic front door stoop was filmed on Perry Street and why James Baldwin wrote about it while living at 81 Horatio Street—it's ineffable.
I found a listing for a room in a West Village three-bedroom apartment. It was a shoebox ("quaint", in real estate speak) but it was in the heart of what is now my most cherished neighborhood.
But, as the saying goes, nothing good lasts forever. We all have our where I was when the pandemic struck story and mine was in the epicenter of it all. My boyfriend and I met up with a couple of friends Saturday night on March 14th, 2020 for dinner at The Beekman in lower Manhattan. The four of us nervously, half-jokingly bumped elbows goodbye at the end of the night and he and I took the subway back to his apartment in Brooklyn. The next day, all restaurants were shut down, and shortly after, stay-at-home orders were issued—I didn't go back to my apartment for almost three months.
The last half of the year still feels indescribable in many ways. Maybe once the dust settles and we have hindsight we'll be able to grasp the magnitude of what the world went through. On a granular level, the pandemic has shifted what the concept of home means to individuals. For many, it meant constant stress about bringing in enough money to pay the rent. For others, it translated to moving back in with parents. For myself, quarantine was spent trying to make sense of abruptly losing access to my belongings and personal space. In the grand scheme, it was far less severe than performing essential work or losing a loved one to the virus, but a significant life change that undeniably impacted my mental health nonetheless.
A cramped home without the companion I weathered the storm with didn't feel like the right way to come out on the other end of this.
For weeks on end, my boyfriend and I performed the same song and dance many of you probably did as well. We live-streamed yoga classes, we did Zoom happy hours, we made self-improvement goals that we didn't end up keeping, we ordered groceries and manically wiped them down with disinfectant, and we tried to make the best of being in the same room together day in and out. As it turns out, it wasn't terrible. Indeed, wearing the same pair of sweatpants every day and trying to write amidst a backdrop of never-ending ambulance sirens was disheartening, but this forced cohabitation revealed an awareness in me that I was overdue for a change before quarantine had even started.
Fast forward to the early days of summer when New York looked starkly different than the city I knew in spring; the Village slowly woke back up and I began spending nights at my apartment again. However, something had shifted for me. A cramped home without the companion I weathered the storm with didn't feel like the right way to come out on the other end of this (though I'd hardly say we're even on the other end, but I digress). I wanted more space, I wanted nature, and ultimately I wanted to continue sharing time with my partner. After numerous long conversations, I made the decision to bid adieu to my home of over half a decade and begin a fresh chapter at a new apartment with my boyfriend in Brooklyn. No more waving hello to West Village business managers I'd built friendships with, no more quiet walks home past the Jefferson Market Library, no more of any of it—that chapter has come to a close.
I forgot how freeing it feels to live in an apartment where all aesthetic choices are in your control, not a decision cobbled together by roommates past and present.
But with the closing of a chapter comes the beginning of a new one—one that offers a blank slate and the exciting opportunity to design and decorate a shared space. The last several weeks have been spent swapping links with my boyfriend to used media consoles and rugs and high-tech trash cans. I forgot how freeing it feels to live in an apartment where all aesthetic choices are in your control, not a decision cobbled together by roommates past and present. In other words, this life change is a small, personal silver lining in a year marked by struggle and loss.
A Joan Didion quote I always come back to suggests that "a place belongs to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his image." The pandemic's impact on home (both metaphorical and literal) will continue to be profound. But however it shakes out and wherever we end up, the homes we’ve loved and eventually leave can still always be ours—long after we've moved on.