Start by entertaining the idea of having a roommate for the rent relief, and maybe the camaraderie, before having flashbacks to all of the terrible experiences you’ve had. The one who had sex with your mutual male friend while you were trying to sleep five feet away. The one who loudly watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes on her laptop in the living room. The one that told you she didn’t smoke and then stained your lamps with her cigarette ash. The one who filled the kitchen with fake, plastic cakes and hung magazine pinups of naked renaissance woman in the bathroom with thumbtacks, the corners curling with the condensation from each shower. Even when you get along swimmingly, there comes a time when the idea of returning home after a trying day at the office to someone who’s not your significant other — yet still shares your personal space as intimately as one — is exhausting.
Start looking for apartments online, and very quickly remember that it might be even worse than searching for a roommate. Set up viewings with flaky, snaky realtors that expect you to hand over your entire savings account and your firstborn child in exchange for unlocking a door and saying, “you can’t beat this location.” Go back home, day after day, and get even closer to admitting defeat when every apartment you see is somehow worse than the last — and twice as expensive. Think that maybe the roommate route is the way to go, after all. The fake cakes and renaissance women weren’t that bad.
Walk into just one more place the day after your most recent meltdown and feel a sense of familiarity, warmth, and certainty. Recognize it immediately as the sign that you’ve found the one; the feeling you’ve had with every single apartment you’ve lived in as soon as you stepped foot into it. See yourself making your favorite smoked salmon pasta in the kitchen, windows open, a summertime breeze and sun streaming through. Imagine yourself sitting on your back deck in the morning with a cup of coffee—which is something you know will never realistically happen as much as you’d like, but it’s a nice thought, anyway). Fill out the rental application as fast as you can scribble down the info, begrudgingly write a check for a million dollars to the realtor, and suddenly find yourself with a beautiful new place to live. Desperately wish that dating worked the same way for you.
Consider enlisting the assistance of your parents and bribing your friends with pizza and beer in exchange for their help with moving your stuff, but decide that it will be best for everyone involved to shell out some money to have the professionals, aka college kids on their summer break, do it for you. The older you get, the more willing you are to pay a little — or a lot — extra for convenience.
Stand in your now-empty former apartment, running through all of the best times you had there as if each were a snapshot you were taking with your camera. Getting accidentally drunk on rosé on your patio with your friend and wandering down the street to dinner. Writing one of your favorite pieces after a rare burst of inspiration while sitting on your couch on a late August afternoon. Making pizza from scratch with a guy you thought things were going somewhere with (they weren’t). Waking up to an unexpected early spring snowstorm with a guy you also thought things were going somewhere with (they were, but not far enough). Making up stories about the lives of your neighbors who never shut their blinds. Close the door behind you.
Point to where the boxes should go, write another check, and vow not to move again for the next decade. Spend the first night, as always, feeling off-kilter and strange as you adjust to your new home. Comcast isn’t coming until tomorrow, so you’re relegated to old DVDs and racking up precious data usage on your phone when you need a social media fix. Have trouble sleeping because every sound in the night is terrifying.
Awake confused the next morning until you remember where you are, then get excited to start making this place your own. Walk to the Dunkin’ Donuts down the street for an iced coffee, because its proximity was a major selling point in your decision to live here. Start sorting through the stacks of boxes to find all of the weird little treasures and knickknacks you’ve collected over the years because they’re what will make this apartment feel like a home much faster than a couch or an end table. Pastel pottery from Goodwill, your vinyl records, a painted antique paddle that says “Food should be cooked with butter and love,” a small tie-dyed ceramic skateboard. Hang some remarkably real-looking fake plants in the foyer, because they need to look pretty all the time, but you can only keep a couple alive at once and the pressure of that location is just too intimidating.
Scour yard sales, thrift shops, and the neighborhood “free stuff” group to add even more to the collection: a strange still life painting, a dreamcatcher, a decorative mug that says “Good morning, darling!” on one side and “Good morning, you old grouch!” on the other.
Return home after long days at work and delight in having a place that’s all your own. Cue up Elvis Costello on the record player and dance like a maniac on your multicolored bohemian rug. Do YouTube yoga videos on the same rug when you’re too lazy or intimidated to take a studio class. Read in your sunroom, occasionally getting distracted for pages at a time by the fact that you have a sunroom in which to read. Buy way too many Scentsational Midnight Woods candles because you’ve never smelled anything better than that combination of wild lavender, citrus, cedar wood, and plum, and burn through them at an alarming rate.
Take a summer baking class and carefully bring your fruit and frangipane tart home with you on the bus, giddy with the knowledge that there’s nobody else to eat it. Stand in the kitchen that night and devour a piece straight out of the tin, feeling a little lonely but mostly content. Buy flowers for yourself, sometimes just because, and sometimes because every women’s website tells you it will improve your life. Watch an episode of The Barefoot Contessa and get a surge of motivation to make a gourmet dinner. Expend too much energy trying to find the right seasoning in the grocery store, order takeout, and let the ingredients rot in the fridge.
Quietly observe the goings-on of the neighborhood — appreciate one neighbor’s dedication to cultivating a lush garden and another’s frequent use of their patio. Develop a sweet “friendship” with the orange cat who lives across the street but often wanders over to your deck, and smile when you catch a glimpse out your kitchen window of it sleeping under its owner’s car on a sunny day. Occasionally wish you had someone else around to deal with the mini-crises that pop up here and there: a dining room mouse sighting in the winter, a front porch wasp’s nest in the summer. Feel a fleeting sense of pride and accomplishment when you handle them yourself and a huge wave of relief when your landlord takes care of them for you.
Finally get around to planning a housewarming party a few months later and prepare way too many Trader Joe’s appetizers for the five friends who can actually make it that day. Empty three bottles of wine, laughing and reminiscing and marveling to yourself at the strangeness of these people from different parts of your life interacting and eating cake together. Play a few rounds of Trivial Pursuit — the only game you own because you got it for free at the office Yankee Swap — until everyone starts getting tired at 10pm because you’re in your 30s now. Walk your guests out and shut the door behind them, feeling incredibly happy that they were here and even happier that they’re gone.