Setting Up a Home (#6)

The first few years after I moved out of Chris’s place in the Back Bay, I struggled with setting up a real home for myself. At first, I rented a studio on the ground floor near Coolidge Corner in Brookline. The studio was newly renovated. It felt cold. I was not comfortable being on my own with all that quietness. I didn’t use the kitchen to cook anything. I didn’t spend time in the living room doing anything that one would do there. I just took showers and slept there. Within six months, I moved again because, on a Saturday night, someone broke into the apartment and took my jewelry box, digital camera, and laptop. The person came in from a window from the back of the building facing a dark parking lot. I felt extremely unsafe living alone and quickly moved into a house with two other roommates in East Cambridge. I had no sense of what I needed. Both the studio and the house were much more isolated than Chris’s. I hadn’t lived with roommates since my first and second years in college. I was unused to someone I didn’t know well walking around in my private living space. I ended up retreating to my own room and not linger in the common area. It didn’t feel like home to me. After I had the mental breakdown in East Cambridge, I didn’t want to live there anymore which made me feel uncomfortable. A little more than a year later, I moved again. I learned what didn’t work for me. 

In April 2004, I decided to buy my own place. Many of my friends owned their places, and I thought it was a good idea for me too. Since I had a decent job, I had some savings that I could use as a down payment. I calculated the monthly payment I would be comfortable paying and came up with a price range for an apartment. Luckily, I found a small one-bedroom apartment I could afford. It was in the Back Bay, which was one of my favorite neighborhoods. I would be close to shops and restaurants as well as public transportation. Everything would be within walking distance and just perfect for me! 

On a beautiful summer day, I wandered around on Newbury Street and walked home in minutes. There was no need to hop on the T to go home from a bookstore that I just visited. Everything was only blocks away. That suited me well.

I sat in my small kitchen and thought of each room I owned. How do I want to use the kitchen? How will the living room work out for me? Is it wise to put the bedroom project on hold? I felt very satisfied at this moment sitting in “my” kitchen, enjoying such a sunny day. 

A few months after I moved in, after visiting a friend’s place, I came home feeling something was missing at my place. It doesn’t feel lived in! During my first few months of being a homeowner, I added new furniture, including a sofa, a dining table, and dining chairs. The place looked very functional. The yellow sofa matched the soft yellow wall. The bookshelf in the long hallway was filled with books and things I was interested in and loved. However, my place needed little accent pieces. It needed more character. As much as I wanted to keep my place simple and neat, I wanted to make it mine. In the next twelve months or so, I would add pictures to the bare walls, a basket for magazines, lamps for reading, and a clock for telling time. I even thought about painting a few paintings myself, but Rachel and Michael kindly discouraged me and told me to just buy something. I know. I know. I am never going to finish it! And it won’t look so good either! 

Owning a place didn’t make a difference in my spending habits. I was always responsible for my own rent. Now instead of paying someone, I was paying myself and the bank. It was the biggest loan I had ever taken out. I learned about the interest rates, principal versus interest payments, condo fees, and city taxes. 

The T stop closest to my apartment was the Hynes Convention Center stop on the green line. Sometimes, a homeless person slept in the small nook of the exit off Newbury Street. Seeing the homeless often made me feel extremely thankful that I had a home. I was not the only person who felt proud. My dad sent me a letter soon after I bought my place. In the envelope, there was one single sheet of paper with a handwritten note that said, “Dear Mindy, Congratulations. I’ll bring my toolbox. Love, Dad.”

Little did I know, it would take me another 15 years to build a real home for myself, to know what I really wanted and needed, to be able to be completely comfortable at where I lived.

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