Things I Require In an Apartment

So I’ve now looked at a total of three apartments in The Great Apartment Search. Though I found a seemingly PERFECT one that both my potential roommate and I are in love with—it’s just too expensive to be worth it right now.

We’re mostly looking at apartment complexes, a thing I’d never considered before. They are highly attractive to us because most important things are included in the rent–such as heat, hot water, and in some cases even internet and cable! Plus on-site fun things like a pool or fitness center or various sporting areas.

When I was living in Boston my list of important apartment features was awfully short. It included: Under $700 per person in rent, Close to a T stop, Somewhere I won’t get stabbed.

Visiting these places has made me mentally prepare a list of what is important to me in an apartment search in Middle-of-Nowhere-College-Town-Massachusetts. A bit longer than my Boston list, it is as follows:

-Cheap. I’m a poor post-grad with large monthly student loan repayments. This is a given.

-Cats allowed. If I’m going to become a crazy cat lady someday I better get started.

-Living room required. You may find this silly, but I recently viewed an apartment sans-living room. I actually looped the apartment twice just to make sure I didn’t miss it. A living room is necessary because I get nothing done in my room and I fear I will become a cat-lady-esque lump (covered in cats, of course) if it was the only space in the house I could occupy… unless watching hours of youtube clips is considered productive. In that case I’ll be a very productive cat lady indeed.

-Halfway between work and where I live now, at LEAST. This 45 minute drive is KILLING me and I cannot for the life of me find a suitable morning radio show now that my favorite morning duo has been let go. Oh, and gas is a factor I guess too.

-All inclusive is a BIG plus. Not just from a cost perspective, but from an organizational standpoint. I am a bit scatterbrained when left to my own devices—I still don’t know how I manage to pay nine different bills each month in my loans alone, let alone my phone and car payments as well. One big bill for my living space and all it includes is IDEAL.

-Pool. Fitness center. Preferably in one of those apartment complexes near Umass where all the grad students live… where I can hang out in my swimsuit or form-fitting exercise clothes and pretend I can swim/know what I’m doing in a fitness setting while flipping my hair flirtatiously… do you see where I’m going with this?… Granted, I’m picturing the men’s crew team all living in a town house and spending their free time in the pool when I know the reality is it will probably be overrun with screaming children from the family half of the complex the managers keep telling me exists (trying to convince me these places are not JUST overrun with rowdy college undergrads)…

-One of the following: Tennis court, volleyball court, basketball court, hiking trails. For the reasons listed above, but also because hey. Maybe I want to learn tennis someday.

I like to cook things. So a functional kitchen would be nice. Also a dishwasher, because I am lazy.

-No landlord on site, so that I can have friends over and occasionally pretend I’m still a rowdy college student—but then again I’d also not like to be surrounded by rowdy college students because I’d like to be rowdy on my own terms and sleep when the spirit moves me. Ideally, we would be sandwiched between one to two other apartments of similarly-minded 20-something-aged women and, as menstrual cycles can align given enough time together in close quarters, so will our partying/non-partying tendencies.

-Parking. Toto, we’re not in Boston anymore. In middle-of-nowhere-Massachusetts, you need your wheels.

-Laundry. I’m not picky–it doesn’t have to be in the apartment itself. In the building would be nice. Considering my Boston apartment charged $4 to wash and $4 to dry, I’m pleased that though most places we’ve seen do indeed charge for use of the machines at least it’s under $2.

-The complexes on the bus line that go to the center of town are attractive, but only if the bus magically runs until after the bars close. If not, it’s of no use to me.

Odds of finding something that includes all of this? Slim to none. The complexes sound great, in theory, which means they potentially are not. Maybe our perfect apartment will magically become affordable or we’ll both spontaneously get raises and all will be well. But until then, we continue our search.

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The Great Apartment Hunt

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my current living situation and whether or not I’m happy with it. I’m finding that I’m not as happy as I could be, and since this new year or whatnot is supposed to be about continuing to learn how to be an adult and do that whole “finding myself” thing, I need to do something.

Don’t get me wrong, living with the parents rent-free has its major benefits. Namely, no rent. Also, though we tend to butt heads I do like my parents for the most part and enjoy watching reality television with my mom or silly movies with my stepdad. Or cuddling with the adorable yorkshire terrier or big black cat. However, when I moved home after college I told myself I would give myself a year to find a job, get a leg up on my loans, and then move out and away. It’s now been two years, and I’m starting to get antsy. Nevermind the fact that though I know they’re trying their best, I can’t help but still feel like a teenager in my parents’ home.

My goal was to move to Los Angeles before next fall. But I haven’t been out on my own since college, and even then I had the cushion of being a student to fall back on–I wasn’t quite a grown up yet, even though I was working full time as well as being a full time student and wanting to pull my hair out with all the stress that entailed. What happens if I make it all the way across the country, only to crash and burn because I’m too far away from the experiences of living in my own place? Plus, at this point I’d be moving to LA without a job, since I highly doubt anyone would be willing to fly out an entry-level for an interview, and that’s kind of a terrifying concept.

So I decided that, for the short term at least, finding my own place was necessary. Yes, it will push back my plans for LA, and I accept this. But I’ll have another year of work experience under my belt, and be well in the habit of paying my bills on time. Also I’ll be closer to having paid off my loans as well. And who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to scrape together some more savings by then as well. My good friend Reggie also needs a place, so I even have an awesome roommate to search with instead of trying my luck at Craigslist people.

Wish me luck!

In Which Ashley Goes to the Gym for the First Time In Months

I’ve always been some sort of “skinny.” I’ve never been a beanpole or had what my mom refers to as “chicken legs,” and though I sometimes wished my thighs were a little smaller or my arms and stomach a bit more toned I’ve never quite worried about my weight. I was always content to assume that I had my mother’s former-model-skinny-esque metabolism and enjoy nachos and tacos on the regular.

That is, until the past four years or so. As you may know, depending on how well you know me, my father died when I was 19, at age 47 from complications that most definitely were rooted in his weight and unhealthy habits. This, and the 15ish pounds I gained during my college years were a little wakeup call. I needed to get off my butt and at least get a bit healthier, and if I lost a little poundage in the process all the better.

So I joined a gym.

Then I stopped going. Around May I think. So I did a month of Zumba, then I was in a play and couldn’t make the classes. Then the play ended and I joined JAZZERCISE and grooved my butt around to Lady Gaga before being cast in another play that had practices during classes.

Then I joined another gym, closer to work, with the idea that I’d go after work but before play practice.

Then I stopped going. Around November.

It’s a new year, and I’m not immune to the pressure from all these resolutions to better yourself. So I decided that yesterday, instead of sitting in the corner of my favorite pre-play-rehearsal hangout spot and noshing on the cheesy bacon roasted potatoes I loved, I would take my extra bit of free time and go to the gym.

My gym bag was still in my trunk, where it’s been since October, after all. So after work I made the short drive to the gym and confidently scanned my still-new-looking membership card and made my way to the locker room.

Upon opening my gym bag, I noticed the following things:

  • I had forgotten my ipod and headphones
  • I had forgotten a sports bra
  • I had forgotten a fresh bottle of water
  • I had forgotten deodorant
  • I had no towel
  • The entire contents of my gym bag were disgustingly moist

Apparently, I had a water bottle in my gym bag that had frozen, expanded, broke, then melted, soaking all of my clothes for god knows how long. Two magazines had also suffered casualties, and their brightly colored pages were now a lump of mush in the bottom of the bag. The faint mildew odor made me want to vom in my mouth a little.

But, like the determined little New Years Gym Goer that I am, I decided to rough it out anyway. No bra was clearly better than an underwire bra when I had no sports bra, and so I put on the tightest, driest exercise tank top in the bag. Thankfully my sneakers had escaped the flood–there is nothing worse in my mind than soggy shoes, except maybe soggy jeans. I grabbed one of the falling-apart, sweat-scented magazines from the communal reading rack and started on one of the elliptical machines.

Within minutes I already had a thin layer of sweat-glaze covering my body. This did not help the mildew smell. I don’t generally sweat much, but apparently when you haven’t been to the gym in months your body decides to spaz out on you a little. Not to mention the fact that my ladies were jiggling all over the friggin place in front of me–making me wildly uncomfortable for a multitude of reasons. I grabbed the stationary handles and pointed my chest downward, as close to the console as possible and fiercely prayed the two women I’d noticed from work didn’t decide it was elliptical time within the next 30 minutes.

Instead of reading the 2009 Summer Issue of Real Simple that I’d grabbed I stared at my glistening face in the reflection of the television in front of me (DAMNIT did I regret not grabbing headphones!) and contemplated ways to clean myself before I went to play practice. I had no towel, no soap, and no cash to borrow a towel from the front desk. I was about to go straight to play rehearsal and did not want my costumes I’d be wearing for the next three nights to smell like mildewy sweat. I decided to overload myself with paper towels, jump into a shower stall with a handful of hand soap, and try to rinse off the important bits enough to smell decent and pat myself dry. Brilliant use of resources, I know.

After thoroughly wiping down my machine and ending my workout with 20 minutes on the bike, I booked it to the locker room and filled my arms with paper towels. I walked determinedly to the shower stalls only to realize the showers had no stalls. It was just a shower with a curtain.

My plan was thwarted by the fact I was not about to wrap myself in paper towels to make the trip from the changing room to the shower and back again. Instead, I hunched over the sink and bathed myself as if I were a raccoon of some sort–splashing water on my face and under my arms and hoping upon hoping nobody turned the corner and saw me in such a state.

If anyone noticed any lingering mildewy sweat smell at rehearsal they were kind enough not to say anything.

TOMORROW WILL BE DIFFERENT! I WILL RETURN! I vowed to myself, and upon coming home from play rehearsal at 11pm I found alternate gym clothes, packed my gym bag and… left it at the foot of my bed this morning.

Next week, gym, I promise, I’ll be better prepared for you. Just you wait!

The Art of Losing

Another short I wrote. 

This one is entirely fictional. I was overly excited to lose my baby teeth and the shiny coins that resulted in the tooth fairy’s visit. And I wasn’t born with a full set of teeth, though fun fact: I was born with a full head of hair.

I think this is week but I like my imagery here. I think I need to extend the metaphor and put it in something bigger to make any concrete sense though.

—-

The Art of Losing

I had my baby teeth. I had every one at birth, I hear this is rare. Small,white pearls with tiny edges, just sharp enough—I lost them. They were mine; I knew the roots went deeper than the soft flesh of my gums. They were a part of my skull, circling my brain and keeping me safe.  They left.

When the first twisted loose I screamed—I didn’t care that the tip of the next tooth was already poking through the skin, twice as sharp, ready to take its place and then some. The baby tooth would never come back. I pressed it into the roof of my mouth and screamed at the pain, blood dripping down my chin. It wouldn’t stay. My mother told me to place it under my pillow, everything would be better in the morning. I couldn’t sleep, I kept poking the empty space with my tongue and tasting the soft metallic flavor of my raw gums, hating the bump that grew there and wishing for my tooth, my tooth back. In the morning I threw the quarter across the room and cried. By the time the last one fell I was used to the empty space, but refused to welcome it.

My tonsils were next. I didn’t even know what they were, why they were in my body to begin with. Enflamed, they wanted to leave me. They weren’t pushed as my baby teeth were, they weren’t leaving to make space for something new. The spot in my throat where they did whatever bodily function they were made to do would remain empty forever.  I was supposed to be pacified by ice cream. I wasn’t.

Your appendix is somewhere else now too. There is a dead end in your body, a tube that now leads to nowhere. The purged organ floats carelessly in its jar, freed of its obligations to you. It’s better this way, you know this, or so they tell you. Green-tinted in formaldehyde, it’s admired for what it used to do, not what it is now. It might be forgotten entirely.

We’re all missing pieces. There are roads in us that end abruptly where there used to be something else. Empty spaces that used to have, and now have not. We fit together this way I suppose, our dead ends and missing pieces fill the spaces in each other. When the tooth is pulled, sometimes there isn’t a new one to replace it. False teeth will never be real ones.

My baby teeth were mine. I lost them, but they once clung to my gums as strong as iron. I can try to believe that they never were there to stay, but it never gets easier.

There were other things that were mine too. All as seemingly strong and as painfully temporary as baby teeth.

A Thing I Wrote a While Ago

I wrote this while still in college. I like it, I’m just putting it here so that I don’t lose it. I’m going to post a couple of these, just for fun. Just to save.

Semi-fictional. I wrote it after I had lunch with an ex, where upon getting in my car I wondered why the hell I had lunch with my ex in the first place. I suppose it was that moment we all have after we’ve entirely exhausted all emotions for a person and we realize we really have moved on.

It was a new sensation for me. I used to be one of those girls who waited and cried herself to sleep hoping the person would magically start caring again. It always seemed like it took forever to move on. I wasn’t able to stop caring. I can do that now, not immediately, but after some time the feelings do fade and life stops feeling impossible.

Oh how badly this needs editing, hah.

Anyway. Here ya go.

—-

Amputee

They say that a limb will ache for years after it’s been detached from the body. An amputee will feel the tingle of their toes when their leg ends at the knee. Your shoulder will itch when the bone is not there, and never will be there again.

The heart has phantom limbs too, I think.

I remember how much it hurt:  It was as if the pain extended like an arm from within my rib cage, red and raw, reaching up to my throat and strangling me. My eyes watered. I screamed in a drunken stupor: How can you just stop loving someone? while I tangled myself around the fluffy pink rug in my new apartment, a phone in my hand making calls I shouldn’t have made after two bottles of wine and a very broken heart and a world that was suddenly so impossible.

This night the pain was far away, but I felt like I could still feel it humming. Sitting across from him, discussing our lives and where they were now. You hurt me, once, my brain said quietly as I separated my salad into the things I liked best, in order: avocado, beets, tomato. He even looked different.

And so we made the small talk that people make when they have nothing in common anymore besides a single year together that happened a while ago.

Don’t be the least bit annoyed that he’s an hour late, I told myself. Don’t flinch when he doesn’t remember a movie you saw together, only vaguely wonder if he’s seeing someone new, laugh about things that are funny, and don’t be nervous. You know each other too well to be nervous, even if it’s been a while. You’re not the crazy girl that made that phone call, you’re not. you’re not. you’re not. Let him see it?

Look how well I’m doing. Look how better I am without you… Am I doing this right?

The arm that used to strangle me began to itch a little, the lightest of fingers brushing across my throat, not because you miss him, I reminded myself. It was almost worse, somehow. It’s because you don’t miss him, I realized.

And somewhere, sometime before I’d eaten all the beets I hear the answer I screamed in my heartbreak months before: How do you just stop loving someone?

How?—You just do. It’s slow, never all at once, but you just do. And you can’t even remember when or how it happened.

The missing limb tingles sometimes, but it’s fuzzy and far away and long, long gone.

Resolutions a Little Late — The Art of Being Alone

I keep finding new New Years Resolutions I should add to my list. I suppose “Resolutions” on the New Year are just full of false hopes. Nobody keeps them past January without some serious self restraint. I like the idea of trying to better yourself without some sort of magical start date.

At least, that’s a better excuse as to why I haven’t yet made it to the gym… my resolution shouldn’t start with the New Year dammit give me some time… heh. Next week? Maybe?

Anyway. The resolution I’m thinking of now is one I keep telling myself I need to work on: Learning to be by myself. I’m terrible at it. I can never just sit still and relax and enjoy a night in with a book–particularly if it’s a weekend. If I’m not out running around and DOING something I get anxious and can often work myself up into a panic of WHERE ARE MY FRIENDS NOBODY LOVES ME IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME AAAAGGGHHH! I won’t see a movie I am dying to see if I can’t drag someone with me. Won’t go to a new restaurant without a friend.

Yeaaaah that’s really gotta stop. There’s nothing wrong with having fun by yourself, not surrounded by people or a boyfriend or whatever. I can sit in on a Saturday night with a glass of wine and a good book, that is OKAY TO DO.

I thought of this when I found the following video

It’s quite good advice. I think I’ll read this over a few times and try to embed it into my brain.

The poem it uses is below:

HOW TO BE ALONE by Tanya Davis

If you are at first lonely, be patient. If you’ve not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren’t okay with it, then just wait. You’ll find it’s fine to be alone once you’re embracing it.

We could start with the acceptable places, the bathroom, the coffee shop, the library. Where you can stall and read the paper, where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there. Where you can browse the stacks and smell the books. You’re not supposed to talk much anyway so it’s safe there.

There’s also the gym. If you’re shy you could hang out with yourself in mirrors, you could put headphones in (guitar stroke). 

And there’s public transportation, because we all gotta go places. 

And there’s prayer and meditation. No one will think less if you’re hanging with your breath seeking peace and salvation.

Start simple. Things you may have previously (electric guitar plucking) based on your avoid being alone principals. 

The lunch counter. Where you will be surrounded by chow-downers. Employees who only have an hour and their spouses work across town and so they — like you — will be alone.

Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone. 

When you are comfortable with eat lunch and run, take yourself out for dinner. A restaurant with linen and silverware. You’re no less intriguing a person when you’re eating solo dessert to cleaning the whipped cream from the dish with your finger. In fact some people at full tables will wish they were where you were.

Go to the movies. Where it is dark and soothing. Alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community. 
And then, take yourself out dancing to a club where no one knows you. Stand on the outside of the floor till the lights convince you more and more and the music shows you. Dance like no one’s watching…because, they’re probably not. And, if they are, assume it is with best of human intentions. The way bodies move genuinely to beats is, after all, gorgeous and affecting. Dance until you’re sweating, and beads of perspiration remind you of life’s best things, down your back like a brook of blessings.

Go to the woods alone, and the trees and squirrels will watch for you.
Go to an unfamiliar city, roam the streets, there’re always statues to talk to and benches made for sitting give strangers a shared existence if only for a minute and these moments can be so uplifting and the conversations you get in by sitting alone on benches might’ve never happened had you not been there by yourself

Society is afraid of alonedom, like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements, like people must have problems if, after a while, nobody is dating them. but lonely is a freedom that breaths easy and weightless and lonely is healing if you make it.

You could stand, swathed by groups and mobs or hold hands with your partner, look both further and farther for the endless quest for company. But no one’s in your head and by the time you translate your thoughts, some essence of them may be lost or perhaps it is just kept. 

Perhaps in the interest of loving oneself, perhaps all those sappy slogans from preschool over to high school’s groaning were tokens for holding the lonely at bay. Cuz if you’re happy in your head than solitude is blessed and alone is okay.

It’s okay if no one believes like you. All experience is unique, no one has the same synapses, can’t think like you, for this be releived, keeps things interesting lifes magic things in reach. 

And it doesn’t mean you’re not connected, that communitie’s not present, just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it. take silence and respect it. if you have an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it. if your family doesn’t get you, or religious sect is not meant for you, don’t obsess about it. 

you could be in an instant surrounded if you needed it
If your heart is bleeding make the best of it 
There is heat in freezing, be a testament.

A Random Gift from an Old Friend

Yesterday I came home to find a box from Amazon waiting for me. I assumed it was a textbook my brother had ordered for next semester, but it was mysteriously addressed to me.

A friend I haven’t seen since graduation (and, admittedly, probably even longer than that) sent me Mindy Kaling’s new book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).” I was utterly blown away. My Facebook status had mentioned I’d forgotten to put it on my Christmas list and she took it upon herself to get it for me since I’d been having a rough week.

Probably the nicest random thing anyone’s ever done for me. So very sweet.

A little kick in the pants to make sure I try to reach out to old friends this year 🙂 Meredith, next time I’m in Boston I’m taking you out for lunch and we’re catching up.