Trials and Tribulations of Apartment Hunting

In many romantic relationships, moving in together is considered the next BIG step. Maybe the guy asks the girl spontaneously after dinner on a Wednesday night or the couple decides paying rent for two apartments just doesn’t make sense anymore. Either way, the commitment is the relationship is magnified: requiring prolonged decision-making, nice dinners and a trustworthy hardware store individual who can make an extra copy of the apartment key. Now compare this to the last month of my life–the blind housing search, without a significant other or help from bland college roommate surveys, in a city I have never lived with future friends I have never met. How are they similar? They aren’t.  House hunting is a mad dash of bedroom musical chairs. When the music stops and your job begins, one can only hope there is a house, an apartment, or a soft futon to call your own.

In lieu of renting an apartment with my non-existent boyfriend, I developed an unhealthy addiction to craigslist in the hopes that the perfect person would need a housemate and a new best friend. My requirements were few and far between. Affordable monthly rent. Acceptable driving distance to my job. Living breathing person with heartbeat. Turns out those requirements were a little too vague.

I dragged my best friend along for my first six apartment dates to see the places and meet my potential new roommates. The majority of these apartment owners were male, significantly older, and had strange obsessions with board games, knitting, and obscure music. One bathroom had a rich history- it had once been a distillery during Prohibition- and the tub and linoleum floor hadn’t been cleaned since alcohol became legal. We also met the drummer from the Number 1 Jimmy Buffett cover band (so many bongos), received an offer to stay for homemade penne a la vodka, and consoled a woman with recently bad housemate history. On one hand, seeing potential homes was exciting, a snapshot into the lives of complete strangers. But the stark reality that I would have to choose one of these places and people to live with for the next year was humbling. I remained hopeful despite the number of older single men with a spare bedroom and my depressingly limited stipend from my upcoming fellowship.

And now I am thrilled to say that I finally found a place. It took over 50 emails, voicemails, and house walkthroughs but I have a bedroom and a duplex to call my own. Both women, age 26 and 28, are kind, reasonable, and totally responsible. One of them is even a vegetarian and I look forward to sharing meals with her every now and then. I must thank craigslist for providing me with a source of house-hopping entertainment while I shopped for the right place and the right people. Now all I need is a bed, dresser, desk, and a car to transport me there.

This growing up thing is a lot of work. 

College Grad: Permission to Wander

“Not all who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien. 

I found this quote scrawled on one of my father’s shirt this morning as I was hanging clothes. (Yes, sometimes I do chores). The words part of a larger quote from the Lord of the Rings, stuck with me. I found myself wondering, “How many college graduates leave school with the intention to wander, to see and explore, throwing longterm plans and cares to the wind?”

Engineering firms, Peace Corps, communication agencies, Teach for America, graduate school–hiring the best and the brightest. Many of my college friends have already solidified jobs, fellowships, and placement in graduate programs with a clear start toward their career path. They seem so ready, hungry for the chance to make a change, make money and make a difference. Have they postponed their opportunity to wander?

I can’t blame them. I too got swept up in the wave of applications, interviews and “See resume attached” e-mail bodies. During finals week, I accepted an offer from Center for EcoTechnology, a one-year fellowship position doing residential environmental outreach. I have a plan. Helping people save energy in Massachusetts. Finally I can hold my head high and say, “Yes I do have a plan after graduation” at awkward family gatherings.

Now, in just over a month I will begin in a new town with a new job and a new start. Craigslist is my new bookmark favorite as I search for apartments, a used car and available items to furnish my hypothetical new bedroom. I’ve tried to remember the last new friend I’ve made, how exactly strangers move from the awkward initial encounter to texting pals and Friday night plans. Am I settling for a short-term organized plan instead of wandering, exploring the unknown outside of academia? I don’t know. Maybe the act of wandering is more of a mindset anyway. One can only fear the fear of being lost.

Post-Grad just came on TV. Time to watch someone else struggle with life after college.