As a blizzard whips over the city and New Yorkers settle into their apartments with wine, potato chips and bacon (well, at least this New Yorker) I find myself thinking about the things we live with. The people. The experiences. The objects. The regrets.
I live with my boyfriend in a cramped but cozy one bedroom apartment facing East 99th Street. We live with the sounds of traffic and passersby coming in through our bedroom window at all hours of the day and night. Sometimes sex feels like a threesome between us and the edges of Spanish Harlem.
In the three months since we moved in together, the apartment has become a collage of my boyfriend and myself—us. Paintings I collected during my travels across Europe hang on the walls with his framed photographs. My British monarchy magnets decorate our refrigerator alongside his corporate branded magnets. I write in our bedroom at a desk that once belonged to his father and that now holds my notebooks and a model of the Eiffel Tower my mother gave me for Christmas was I was in high school.
Moving in together was an experience—perhaps better termed a feat—that I was quite proud of. The act was simple enough. We loaded up my few belongings from the room I had been renting just twelve or so blocks south and drove them up. It had been an unusually sunny late October day and we had finished the job so early that we had decided to have lunch at a Greek restaurant across from a gas station deeper in Spanish Harlem. I sipped a beer and watched taxis fill up their tanks.
The next weekend I invited a friend over to the apartment, made dinner and said, “Look what I’ve done. Look how happy I am.” And I was.
And I was not naïve. I knew living with someone is not necessarily easy. It is not romantic, like dating. Living with someone is like life—messy, exhausting, ridiculous, surprising, infuriating, beautiful, and lucky. All the things you couldn’t figure out how to be by yourself you now have to be with another person—like less stubborn or more organized. And all the things you were by yourself you have to be with another person—like independent. Like anything worth having, it’s hard.
And the thing is, you don’t necessarily know what you’ll need to do until you’re in it and it’s asked of you. I find this is true of relationships in general: you get into them and the most you can do is be yourself and be loving. The rest, you figure out.
And that brings me to the biggest most important thing we all have to live with: ourselves. As the snow falls down outside my bedroom window and I think of the days that had recently past and the ones that lie ahead in the near future, I think that no matter how much you want to live with someone, you can’t make choices that make it hard to live with yourself. Because just as I might be stuck inside this apartment for the next day or two, we are all stuck inside our own heads forever. This is it. We are all we get.
And I learned recently, that no matter how much it hurt at the time, I don’t regret the loss of any past friends or boyfriends from my life. I regret how hard I tried to hold on. I regret determining not my worth, but my quality of character based on what other people said to me and how they treated me. I regret letting people make me doubt if I liked myself.
And I do. I like myself. I like that I am caustic and silly and introverted and too honest and awkward. I like my weird alone time music and I like that I like taking care of people. And if people don’t like me, I can live with it because I can live with myself. And it looks like I’ll have to. There are storms to weather ahead.