My house is for sale.
Well, not my house. I rent. That’s the problem. It’s not actually my house. And I can’t afford to buy it.
I sometimes liken my landlady to a fairy godmother. When we first looked at the place, it was everything my roommates and I wanted – three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a basement that was perfect for a studio space. I have a small office attached to my bedroom; we can walk to the center of the city in about twenty minutes. It’s exposed bricks and tall ceilings and some kind of indefinable good energy – you walk into the living room and it’s sunny and warm and even before we placed a stick of furniture there, it just felt like home.
Of course, it was wildly outside of our price range. But our landlady listened to us politely decline, thought for a moment, and said, “Here’s the thing. You are all artists, and I think what you do is important. You make the world more beautiful. I would rather have good neighbors right now than the money. If I lowered the rent, would you reconsider?”
I almost cried, and we signed off on the spot. We moved in a week later. That was almost four years ago, and it’s home in a way that I haven’t felt since I was a kid. Perhaps even more so, somehow. It’s the first place I’ve lived in as an adult that hasn’t felt temporary – there’s a calming rhythm to knowing exactly how the key fits into the sticky door lock, setting my purse on the chair that was once a setpiece from a play I designed.
The house is up for sale, because my landlady owns it with another couple, and that other couple has kids, and those kids are going to college, and they really do need the money now. And I get that. I do. After all, it isn’t my house. It’s theirs. And I am incredibly grateful to have been there for as long as I have.
I’m trying to remember that this week. The fact that I’ve been there at all is a miracle. I am deeply, deeply grateful to have been in my home for as long as I have.
I stepped out of the shower this afternoon, steamy and wet and relaxed, the kind of shower you can afford to take in the middle of the day when you work from home. The kind of head-clearing thing that affords your mind the chance to wander. I wrapped a towel around myself and started to scribble ideas into my notebook, trying not to drip on the paper, my hair pulled up into a knot on my head.
I had managed to throw clothes on when the doorbell – one of my few complaints about the place, the old-school buzzer that rattles to wake the dead – when the doorbell buzzed and then there they were, a real estate agent flanked by a young couple holding a baby.
I like to think that I was irate about the miscommunication in scheduling, that I was simply irritated because had the doorbell buzzed just minutes earlier, I would have been an unfortunate character in a story you tell your friends and neighbors, “the lady in the towel,” a cliché character in an episode of Seinfeld or something.
But that wasn’t it. Not really. I think I was irate because I heard the man softly say, “Oh, this is great.”
I heard the woman turn to her husband, standing in the doorway of my tiny office, and say, “Oh, honey! We could put the toys in here,” and I felt my heart tighten into a selfish little knot. You could put the toys in here, I wanted to cry, but you can’t, I’m sorry, you just can’t, because this is my office, where I sit and where I work and where I dream, where I have kissed men and where I have cried quietly and where I fold laundry and where I read and where I exist. You can’t be here. You can’t.
But the thing is, they can. And if they don’t, someone else will. And in this deeply selfish moment of self-pity, I wished for a larger bank account. I wished for a better credit rating. I wished for the kind of life that would allow me to sign my name on a dotted line and fork over a sum of money in exchange for turning my key into that sticky door lock for as long as I choose. I wished that I had gone to a cheaper college, that I hadn’t sacrificed financial stability for my dream of making my way as an artist. For this one tiny moment, I wished that I was just a grown-up already, not someone who still feels like she’s pretending.
And then I remembered why my bank account is small.
It’s because I chose to make my living as an artist. It’s because I didn’t get a job in something that I knew would be stable and secure – I chose to follow this insane dream of paying my bills by writing words and creating clothes and reading plays and drawing pictures and creating and making and building and doing. And somehow, by some miracle of space and time and talent and luck, that’s what I am doing. I write, and I design costumes, and that keeps the lights on in the beautiful house that I have been so incredibly lucky to call home.
And that is a blessing. It is. The world is so dark and so scary and so very, very sad, and I am so incredibly lucky to not have to confront any realities scarier than the idea that I might have to move. This is not a real problem. This is a gift. This is a choice. This is just life. It’s just change. And it scares the shit out of me.
But that’s not reason enough to stop doing what I’m doing. There will be another living room. There will be another bedroom. There will be other offices and other carpets and other sofas, other places to pile stacks of books I have yet to read, and other lamps to click off before I head to sleep.
This isn’t a real problem. This is just change.
I don’t know if those people are going to buy my house. But I know that as long as I can’t afford to buy it, I can afford to be generous. I can afford to suck it up and smile and when someone inevitably does fall in love with it, I can accept it and move on.
It’ll suck, having to pack my belongings, having to try to start again. But I’m going to remember what I have chosen – a life and a career that some very special people recognize as inherently beautiful and important – and that is worth more than a deed and brick walls. And I can breathe, and I can hope, and I can keep writing.
And I can leave a note for the people who do take over, telling them that I loved this place very much, and letting them know that the trick is to jiggle the key and lean in, ever so slightly, when the door gets sticky.