Wednesday, January 18, 2012


"Until then home had been amorphous and elusive: it presented itself in tantalizing glimpses, with the impersonal familiarity of old family photographs.  But all these feelings belonged to the past.  Home was constantly changing before my eyes." 
 Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

For a long time, I've devoted more hours than are probably good for me to searching for and trying to create a space for myself.  A home.  And it has been so hard.  

I'm a girl of many dreams, a healthy dose of wanderlust, and a sense of nostalgia that has caught me by surprise time and time again.  In my head ... in my heart, I feel like the place you spend your days in should reflect you - not only your style or taste in furnishings, but it should be a space that allows and can encourage your true self to emerge and flourish.  I believe in this.  I do.  But I know it's ridiculous, too.  Because whatever issues I have with or in my space -  they're all me.  

Once upon a time, there was the itty bitty room in the college house I fondly (... or perhaps not so fondly) called "the hut" - a 6' x 8' room with a stand-out closet.  I had a twin loft bed with a desk my dad scored from a school auction for $1 underneath.  There was enough room for my antique high boy, the loft/desk combo and a slim line of required novels for my lit classes.  That was it.  I shimmied to the ladder at the foot of my loft - there wasn't room to sit up.  The previous tenants used the room as a closet.  But I loved it.  

Two years later, I moved into one of the single rooms of my sorority house.  It was long and narrow and was in terrible shape when I moved in.  The girl who had lived there before had been in that room  - and clearly hadn't moved anything - for three years.  The plaster walls were crumbling around the switch plates and there were more than a few dirty rectangles outlining a crystal clear map of every item that had been in the room before.  My dad and I spent the day and more money than we'd planned on painting and fixing the room up before hauling my things up and in.  My sorority house was built in 1912.  The wood floors were uneven and splotchy from so many attempts at updating.  My father's classroom box fan (now considered a vintage piece - love that) sat in the window in a desperate and futile attempt to keep the air moving.  A $10 hallway carpet served as entryway and yoga mat.  When in bed, I could reach my arm out and touch my desk chair "across the room."  But goll-ee I loved that room.  Through bats, screeching roommates, and scorching temperatures - it was love.    

After college and after traveling around the world to a life of quote-unquote servitude, I had the opportunity to live in two apartments that would be forever etched in my mind as nothing short of amazing.  Both were broken in their own ways - the first had no furniture except a giant shkaf, a broken sofa which served as bed, and two small stools.  The kitchen cabinetry was removed by the landlords.  Between the Kruschev-era stove/oven and the sink provided by the teachers in my school (clearly removed from a dacha in the country somewhere) stood a school desk.  I fashioned a shelf under the desk out of two pieces of plastic siding that were inexplicably on the balcony to serve as storage and pantry.  My refrigerator was donated by another teacher from my school.  It had rusted nearly all the way through, was covered in old, somewhat mysterious jam, and every few weeks had to be turned upside down so I could beat the ammonia crystals loose within the cooling coils.  
The second was fully furnished in a hodgepodge of florals, wood-tones, mountain-scene wallpaper, and stickers featuring 80's television stars, hair and pornography.  I had two beds in the bedroom.  I took the padding from the extra to create the 2" padding atop the plywood.  It was strangely one of the best beds I've ever had.  Everything was covered in musty, yellowed wallpaper - cabinets, pantry, balcony, the works.  The kitchen sported lower cabinets that could not be opened and shockingly blue wallpaper.  The living room still housed a full shelf of books and coats in the entertainment center.  It did have carpet and a vacuum.  The vacuum had to have come from the early 1960s.  It worked - ish, and the metal casing always turned my hands black with tarnish.   It was kind of amazing.  
In both apartments there was no hot water and I boiled my bath-water on the stove in a 15 gallon bucket.  It took 2-3 hours to boil (depending on how cold it was outside) and required incredible balance and awkward upper body strength to carry this giant bucket of boiling water across the apartments to pour into the bathtub.  I had arms of steel.  
For all of their weirdnesses and quirks, I adored them.  

I haven't loved my space since.  I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me.  And again, I know it's ridiculous.  Four walls, floor and ceiling don't make or break you.  They don't create anything.  
Since moving to Virginia, I've lived in new(er) builds with roommates.  That is the reality of this area and this life at this moment.  And it's not necessarily a bad thing.  I just can't shake the dream of having my little shoebox in the sky - a space that is my own.  

Today, after round two of the great dental adventures, I've been feeling kind of crappy and have spent the better part of my day in my room watching movies and trolling the interwebs.  And that's when it hit me.  While musing about the adorable accessories on Jen(from Jen Loves Kev)'s desk, I had a realization.  I am completely full of shit.  

{See more of Jen's decor here}

 Sure, I'll readily admit I can kill a succulent faster than boiling an egg, despite my nagging urges to have tons of them.  (They're some of my favorites.)  But the general style of it all, not to mention the cute little owls, currently exist in my world, too.  

I rent a room in a house shared by four 20-30 somethings.  It is not mine.  It is not the little shoebox in the sky I've always dreamed of.  I don't have a desk or a dining room or even a shared living room space that jives with my idea of "homey."  I sit on the floor of my room to do my work or read/write/watch TV or movies/eat dinner.  My little Mel-bel's food and litter are just a wee bit too close to my bed to be considered spacious.  But you know what - it's mine.  

And even though it's too new to warrant having "character",  too normal shaped to be considered itty-bitty or cozy, and too put together to have the struggles or issues my favorite spaces did, it works just fine.  And I'm sure, once I do move to a place of my own and have the free reign to arrange and decorate it in ways that please me, I'll miss this place too.  Ok, so I lack the ever elusive living succulent... or even a desk on which to put one...  

I already have what I've been lusting for.   

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