This piece originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.
The walls are empty.
That’s the first thing I notice about my bedroom now that 85 percent of it is crammed inside cardboard boxes and duffel bags and garbage bags. The walls are bare, a bland beige now even more off-putting with shadows of discoloration, memories of the decorations that had speckled them for the past year.
The wall with the tapestry looks freshly painted, practically untouched by light. Above my bed, dark square silhouettes serve as reminders of where my favorite albums once watched over me while I slept. A patch next to my door, right above the light switch, looked a lot more inviting with my sister’s paintings there to greet me first thing every morning when I flipped on the lights.
It’s not the cargo van from Zipcar reserved in my name or the new keys that jangle on my ring or the deposit check that signify that this is real for me. It’s this absence of character in my bedroom that makes me feel it.
This was my first real, adult bedroom.
Unlike college, it was mine, all mine. My sanctuary. I could burn candles and hammer nails into the thin walls. I could come and go, wake up early or sleep in, without worrying about disturbing someone else living two feet from me.
Unlike my last room, it was really mine. It wasn’t a rented room in another woman’s apartment. My name was on the lease. It wasn’t a glorified closet (which the last bedroom, ironically, lacked) that came pre-furnished with a bed that just barely squeezed into the tight confines. I filled it with furniture I bought and assembled all on my own (okay, so it was from Ikea, in case you forgot that I’m not very adult at all, actually). I had space for activities.
This is where I wrote silly essays and sappy essays and Stevie essays. This is where I ate my meals in bed and spilled coffee on my comforter more than once. This is where I had sleepovers and drank margaritas and watched concerts on YouTube until 4 in the morning. This is where I sang and danced around to Led Zeppelin records while getting dressed in the morning. This was my space. My temple.
Moving is a bitch, but it’s time. It’s been time for awhile now. I’m a Gemini. I can’t stay in one place too long. Especially if I’m bored and unhappy, which I had been here.
Some people love Astoria. Some of my coworkers do. Some of my friends do. My roommates do. I am not one of those people. I had come into this new apartment with a head full of high hopes and optimism. My three years in New York had been spent below 14th Street; moving to an outer borough, particularly one that people had told me, convincingly so, was up-and-coming (“bumping,” to be precise), would be a new adventure.
And it was an adventure in that I explored unknown territory. I just found that it wasn’t a very fun one.
Queens may have been bumping, but I wasn’t seeing it. I was seeing a street full of hookah bars one after the other followed by nothing but low rise apartment buildings and houses. I was hearing the crazy man who walked up and down my street every night singing – no, screaming – along to his Walkman radio. I was sitting on the subway day after day, struck by the MTA gods to have the most miserable commute of my life. What should be a 40 minute trek consistently took at least an hour, usually more, after all the delays and breakdowns and oh that thing where sometimes they just decide that no trains will be going into Manhattan at all. (Side note: The NQ line can suck it.)
I wasn’t happy. At all.
I wanted it to work. I did. Maybe it was just winter that made me feel that way. Winter lasts longer in New York, or at least it feels like it. New York winters overtake me, turn me into a miserable creature swearing every day to move to California and turn my back on my East Coast roots. New York winters make me hate the city with a passion, make me constantly question my foolish devotion to it. I thought maybe the cold weather just exacerbated my distaste for Astoria. Maybe being cold made me hate it because being cold made me hate everything.
But then the temperatures rose and I fell in love with New York again. I remembered why I am here to begin with, as I do every year when the city begins to thaw. And soon, I realized that it wasn’t the weather at all. It was me. I missed Manhattan. I hated feeling so far removed from it. I resented the fact that it would take me an hour and a half on the subway to get home from a late West Village night and paying monumental tolls when I chose to be fast and lazy and take an Uber. I missed seeing my friends whenever I wanted, because they were all in Manhattan and sometimes being in another borough might as well have been in another country.
I was tired. I was tired of being angry about my situation. I was tired of being unhappy. So I decided to do something about it.
I’m moving back to the island, back to Manhattan, my ever tempestuous love. I’m still making an adventure out of it. West Harlem is not the West Village – definitely uncharted territory – but I’m excited to give it a go.
You are in control of your own happiness. I know that sometimes it doesn’t seem possible to change things, and sometimes, it really isn’t. I know, believe me. My impatience is no secret. So I know how easy it is to convince yourself that things will never change and your life is going to be stuck this way forever, but really, it’s not. Things fall into place when they’re supposed to, and if you don’t grab opportunities to do what’s best for yourself, you’ll regret it. Sometimes it’s okay to be selfish. Sometimes it’s necessary. You do you, and don’t for a second feel guilty about it.
So now I sit and take in this empty bedroom. One thing remains on the wall. It was the first thing to go up when I moved in. It will be the last thing to pack when I leave. It will be the first thing tacked onto the wall at my new place when the boxes start to get unpacked.
Two years ago, I looked around my shoebox room in my old shoebox apartment. My roommate was particular and had rules, and no nails in the walls was one of them. Save for a photobooth print of my sister and myself taped beside my bed, I had nothing.
It felt cold and lonely and very much not-mine. So the next day at work, I printed out a photo of Stevie Nicks in all her black and white vintage gypsy glory on a piece of tabloid sized office paper, carefully rolled it up and secured it with a rubber band, then carried it home in my bag at the end of the day. Hours later, when it was smooth and flat, I taped it next to my door, directly on the wall no more than 6 feet across from me.
It stayed there for nearly a year and a half, almost watching over me. It was the one thing that made what at times felt like a claustrophobic cell feel like home. It was the one way I was able to mark my territory.
Plus, there’s something special about that photo in particular. It’s in the effortlessness, the on-point bohemian rock gypsy aesthetic goal, the cool and the confidence that Stevie Nicks radiates. The poster, for lack of a better term for its cheap substitute, was, and continues to be, good juju. It sounds silly, but I believe in that kind of thing. When it came time to leave, I knew I had to take it with me.
Discretely tucked inside my closet, it’s what I see when I try on outfit after outfit in the morning, scrutinizing myself. More times than not, I inadvertently glance at that iconic image of such a chill, cool girl. It’s a “What would she do?” moment. It’s a suggestion: “Don’t care so much. Don’t over-think it.” It’s a partially crumpled piece of paper that reminds me how far I’ve come and how much I’ve done in such a short time.
Even though it’s looking a little worse for wear now, there’s no doubt that poster will come along to take a spot in my new room. Like every adventure before this one, it will be there.