A HOUSE, A HOME
by Delia Curtis
The sound of my voice carries in my shoebox of an apartment. Bare walls and empty cabinets make up the space. I sit on the lumpy mattress, as air leaks from the sides, bringing me closer and closer to the hard wooden floor just beneath me. The sharp clinical scent of fresh floor varnish wafts up my nose. The windows are open and the strong summer heat beats into the living room. I am utterly alone, and have been for the past three days.
Moving away from the intensity and constant social interactions that make up dorm life, I am struck by the idea of how alone I could really feel. In the middle of summer with only a few local friends to chat up, I realize how different life will be.
Summer is an odd time for college students. Often close friends are miles or oceans away and feeling grounded and whole may be far from reach. It’s especially odd when you’ve spent the previous semester frolicking around in a European dreamland where your biggest concern is where you’ll be traveling the next weekend. Returning stateside from this world of pure bliss to the claws of reverse culture shock is daunting. Most of your 80-something, new friends will be spending their long sunny days in their hometowns or putting all energy toward career advancing internships. Without the reimmersion back into campus life, reigniting old friendships and relationships becomes harder than ever.
"Finding solace within my own living space was the key to finding my own happiness and serenity."
Internshipless for the summer, I took the opportunity to explore my options and reinvent what it meant to live on my own. To keep my mind occupied during this transformative time, the first step was finding a job that would ensure a steady schedule to bring order and structure back into my life. But finding solace within my own living space was the key to finding my own happiness and serenity.
Living on campus is a luxury that many of us take for granted. As the expenses increase, we’re reminded of how much it costs to fill up the refrigerator or to buy cleaning supplies. But at the same time, living on your own in your personal and private space, as unnerving as that may be without the help of RAs or campus staff, can be liberating and exciting.
Hoisting up your linen tapestry--making it the main focus of your living room wall--or burning that autumnal candle and deeply scented incense allows a blank space to feel more like home. Bit by bit and piece by piece, adding parts of yourself to a blank canvas can turn any empty space into one that feels like your own.
When I toured my apartment back at the beginning of the summer, I couldn’t see past the belongings of the previous tenants. Their disorderly and chaotic living style was hard to block out. I couldn’t see “me” in the space. After picking rooms and deciding who would contribute what to the apartment, I should’ve felt ecstatic, but instead, these surroundings felt foreign and strange. As a woman who has moved around for most of her life, change is seemingly easy for me, but I’d never been on my own before without the crutch of family or support from staff at school.
Stepping into my small square room, I see stark white walls with some dark scraps and scratches. The sliding door to my tiny closet gets stuck on its track, shavings of drywall and dust come falling onto my head. The corners of the room and covered in grime and dirt. Little cracks in the windowsill. Even with such minute space, the nakedness overwhelms me.
After a good, clean scrubbing, I see the quaint beauty of the space. The room’s three-panel window, the sides adorned with a crisscross pane, let in endless light. The rays pour through early in the morning, as the sun rises over the city. They are strong and sometimes left me with little beads of sweat above my upper lip in the stifling summer mornings.
As I became familiar with this space, I took to making it my own. Humanizing the room. Parts of myself were thrust into the making of this space. An array of postcards and art prints litter the walls in a carefully arranged mosaic. Three endless nights were spent carefully placing each piece together, a designer’s conundrum. One piece proclaims, “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing.” How right it was, a constant reminder that we never know exactly what we’re doing, but if it feels right, it’s important to keep going. These little mementos are remnants from visits to art museums and quirky stores. They allow me to re-immerse myself in my travels and daydream about the memories I made in those places.
To fill up a space, means that you occupy it with authority. Claiming a space as your own can invigorate the senses and allow for the flow of creativity. The simple act of making your bed or hanging up your clothes can spring this into action. Your belongings find their own footing in the space and slowly, but surely it begins to feel like home. Being comfortable in your living space is important when it comes to creating good headspace and a zen atmosphere.
My own room is bathed in warm, glowy light. In tandem, my fairy lights, lava lamp, three-wick cinnamon candle, and rock salt lamp calm anyone who enters. Nuzzled up in my yellow patterned comforter with my Scorpio tea, headphones, and a darn good book, I am lulled into a deep tranquility. My own little sanctuary.