Home is Where My House Is by Sydney Joy Willis

It was June. I made the spontaneous choice to move in with three guys who needed someone to replace their recently departed fourth roommate. Feeling I needed to get away from the godforsaken rented bedroom I had called home for over a year, I moved in with the boyz. A few days later I met the landlord. He introduced himself before informing me that we would all have to move out within the month. Hinting at loud parties and something involving the cops, he explained that he would not be renewing our lease. It was a shame. I had only just started to get acquainted with my new space. My name wasn't on the lease, so I could have just bailed right then and there. But what was the point? I had already found a red-headed girl to rent out my old room. We even did this weird thing where we sat cross-legged in the middle of the empty bedroom with a candle lit between us as I handed her my key. You can't just take something like that back. And so I did what any 22 year old woman would have done - I ignored the problem and hoped everything would eventually fall into place. And it did - if only for a moment.

It was July. My roommate had found a new place with even cheaper rent. I signed the lease, gutted a house I had barely lived, and stuffed my belongings into the garage of our new home. Hopeful fantasies of a better future played in my head as I stacked and stuffed boxes into every corner of the garage. We couldn't move in just yet though. Our lease wouldn't technically start for another week, and our new landlord was doing us a “favor” by letting us store our things in the garage until then. I still needed a temporary abode though. My suitcase and I moved into the guest bedroom at my ex-boyfriend’s parents’ house. What? The mattress was really comfortable.

It rained hard that night. Hard enough to flood the house where my belongings soggily sat. My roommate called and I drove over there to salvage what we could. I lost over half of my book collection to water damage - it was a tragedy. Worse yet, we discovered black mold, leading to a decision to break the lease. Robbed of a $500 security deposit, I went back to my suitcase and ex-boyfriend, threw back half a bottle of lemon vodka, and decided that I would just be kinda homeless.

It was August. My belongings were stored in a few different corners of the city. I loaned my mattress to the red-headed girl who lived in my old bedroom, stored some shit in what was no longer my attic, and threw some boxes into a couple different garages. I was still sleeping in the guest bedroom, but after pacing alongside the ping-pong table in my ex-boyfriend’s parents' garage and screaming at him about how unhappy I was while he sat in a lawn chair with his tail between his legs (figuratively, of course), I knew it was time to move on.

It was September. And I had learned how to surf - couches, that is. But I also slept on futons, floors, and even on my own mattress a few times, sharing it with the red-headed girl of course (we had become friends). The backseat of my car was occupied by a pile of clothes, which I would look back at each morning to find something I could get away with wearing. I would plan my sleeping schedule each week, ensuring I had a place to go each night. It didn’t take long for me to feel like a bum though, and it was frustrating not getting to choose when I could go to sleep. At many of the places I stayed, people would linger in the living room until 2 or 3 in the morning. Yes, I had to be up at 6am, but it still wasn’t enough of an excuse to righteously kick someone out of their own living room. Fun fact - I took one of those online strength tests once, and adaptability was my strongest trait. I don't really know if I should feel proud about this, but it’s accurate nonetheless. Yet even though I am skilled at making myself at home really anywhere, it’s admittedly still really damn hard to feel comfortable cooking in someone else's kitchen. Is this relatable? I ate a lot of Taco Bell during this era of my life.

It was October. And I was beginning to lose my mind. I ended up moving into a guest bedroom again, this time at a professor’s house. I was hoping to gain something resembling stability. And I did (kinda).

It’s also about time I wrap up this long-winded epic of mine, but I figure I should tell you what I learned from all of this:

I learned that things are heavy - they will always become more of a burden than expected. You see, I forgot about most of my belongings while they were out of sight; and I felt more stress than happiness when I finally laid my eyes on them after a lengthy hiatus.

I learned that cooking a meal for yourself will always feel better than visiting the drive-thru.

I learned that it’s ok to rely on other people, but it’s also important to maintain control over your own life and have the space to do the things you love.

I learned that putting oneself in limbo can sometimes be the best way to truly find out what you want.

It’s April. I love where I live now, but I wouldn't be here if I would have immediately searched for another lease to sign after black mold house fell through. I’m not encouraging homelessness (per say), but I am encouraging living a life free of shackles. Don’t let stuff tie you down. Don’t rush into the things you think you see in front of you. It’s all about focusing on the things you love - the rest will follow.

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