5 years ago today, I packed my ferrets (yes, ferrets) into a rented minivan and started driving cross-country.
Destination – New York City.
I’m feeling pretty nostalgic today, if I’m being honest… 5 whole years since I took that humongous life leap; and my 30th birthday is one week around the corner to top it off.
When I first moved to Manhattan, the stars really aligned for me- my boyfriend (you know him ad the Mr.) was already living in the city, and luck would have it that I was able to move into a place with 2 of my best work friends from my previous job. One had moved to Manahattan the year before, and was in desperate need of a new place after his lease was expiring. The other was relocating to start Columbia’s MBA program, and thought she was living in New Jersey with her fiance, she needed a place to crash in the city after late nights at the library.
Laura, Ben, and I shared a 1,000 square foot apartment right off of Riverside park and the Hudson river. The place only had 2 bedrooms, and a closet-sized bathroom that didn’t even have any electrical outlets. Laura’s fiance constructed a wall out of plywood and added a door frame from Home Depot to make her a small bedroom right there in the living room.
Ben had one of the bedrooms (the one with the window connected to the fire escape, because he was the boy and thus that seemed safer at the time), while I cozied up in a little 10×12 foot room all of my own with my contraband ferrets (ferrets are illegal in the city of Manhattan which made me a legit criminal. Awesome). I put the pet cage in the closet (only the width of a bedroom door), so I took some of my savings and installed elfa shelving from The Container Store across an entire wall of the room.
We had this narrow 12 foot hallway that led to a tiny living room, with this absurdly skinny galley kitchen flanking off to one side. It was barely wide enough for one person to stand sideways, so cooking was always an adventure.
Then the Mr and I got engaged, and he moved in with me. 4 people, 3 ferrets, 1,000 square feet. So what, you may ask, is the best way to fit 2 people and ALL their belongings in a 12×10 foot room?
By sleeping in a full-sized bunk bed, of course. We were 2 grown adults, camped out like teens sleeping in that thing every night. I used to have first shower shift, so I’d put on my makeup and blow my hair dry in the dark at the desk while the Mr slept above (no outlets in the bathroom, remember?)
We later “upgraded” to getting an additional mattress, so that we slept on the ground and used the bunk bed as a lounge/loft space. I would read up in the loft while the Mr studied for the GMAT late into the night.
Then we got married. And figured that as newlyweds, we probably needed to get our own place. The stars aligned once more; Ben was being relocated to London for work, Laura had gotten married, graduated, and was ready to live with her husband full-time, and we scored arguably the most amazing apartment two newlyweds could ask for.
When the Mr first moved to New York, he ran into a guy watering flowers on the street during a walk and inquired about apartments on a particularly beautiful brownstone-lined block. The guy took him up to an apartment he owned – a stunner – and told him it was for rent. The Mr couldn’t even afford a rental room with furniture at the time (true story, he slept on the floor a futon mattress in a room with no furniture in his first apartment), so this apartment seemed astronomically out of reach. He took the guy’s card, and went on his way.
Fast forward to almost 3 years later- on a whim, the Mr dug up that man’s business card and inquired about that stunner of an apartment. The tenant had just moved out, and it was ready for someone new. It was meant to be.
Brick walls, a terrace deck, a working wood fireplace, a spiral staircase and a master bed and bath upstairs. It may have only been 900 square feet, but it was amazing.
We were stuffed to the gills in that apartment from the minute we moved in, but we loved it. We couldn’t even bring our wedding gifts back to NYC with us because there was no room for all the kitchen gadgets! I often wonder what it would be like to live there now, with the baby and all. The owners lived there until their wife was 9 months pregnant with their second child, so it was totally doable… But somehow I just can’t imagine it.
I painfully long to go back to that apartment sometimes; I want to go back to sitting in front of the fire and watch the snow fall on the terrace while I sip Makers on the rocks and watch reruns of Mad Men. I want to go back to hailing cabs and eating breakfast bagels from Lenny’s on a bench in Central Park while sipping coffee that contained the perfect ratio of cream to coffee to sugar. Sniffing spices in little India’s Curry Hill, spotting celebs in SoHo, seeing the millions of twinkling lights covering the city at Christmastime.
But then I remember that I drank the Makers on the rocks every single night because I was unhappy with my job, and unhappy that money was so tight, and some days I could barely afford to buy soup. I’m now living in twice the square footage for less than half the price. I loved that life some days, but I do love this life now.
From a bright-eyed girl driving to Manhattan, starting a new life and a new adventure, to a new mom in Wichita, trying to juggle a husband and a corporate job a baby and a small business she wants to grow… What the next 5 years will bring? I can’t wait to find out.