Thought Trafficking

May 25, 2009, 3:36 am
Filed under: being selfish | Tags: , ,

Two posts in a day seems extravagant, but humour me. I mentioned my recent househunting in Calgary in my last post, and I wanted to expand on that whole venture.  

The process of looking for apartments and roommates used to seem like more of an adventure than it does now. I just feel tired, now, scrolling through ad after ad, roommates selling themselves, people calling their unfinished basements “spacious,” all of the language, full of verve and synergy, used to sell people on living spaces. I like to think that we (people, that is) can live on less space than we often take; front lawns that never get used and suck up water are just ridiculous, and one or two people living in a huge home seems strange and lonely. We, as a society, can afford to downsize. Me, personally, I can afford to downsize. Also, we don’t always get to choose our financial situation, our area, the state of the housing market. All this to say that I am feeling torn: I am considering going into debt (not a lot of debt, but more than I have before) in order to live by myself. I have never taken on debt before, nor have I ever specifically attempted to live alone. Novel, yes, but for some reason I am cringing.

The last year has been a temporary year, a fortunate year and troublesome year. At the beginning of the summer, my Dad drove over from Edmonton and helped me pack up almost everything that I own. Most of my stuff is currently living in my parents’ garage, in my old closet. I lived with Jane for half the summer and started housesitting for the second half, where I stayed rent-free until December. In January, I moved in with what was supposed to be two roommates but turned into a fiasco. Happily enough, after only two months, one of the roommates (a fantastic person) invited me to move with her at the beginning of March. The location was much better and because of the room that I am living in and her good heart, she is charging me a fraction of the usual rent. On top of that, I was offered another month or so housesitting for May and the beginning of June, giving me lots of space and a sunny place to work for a few weeks.

I can do nothing but be grateful for all of this, but it has created a very strange sense of belonging, a rethinking of how I place myself. Along with this gratitude comes a sense of being scrutinized. I wonder if I am doing things as I ought to, if I washed the pan the way that they would. You watch people that you trust like hawks, feeling like a mother while you do, because these are not your dishes to break, not your tableclothes to spill on. You are yourself and another person.  

In many ways, this is a model of how I’d like to think more often: with someone else in mind, with more thankfulness for what is available, with the idea that accumulating things is pointless, because where would you put them? It has the effect of distilling your presence. Even my presence in my parents’ home is dwindling; when I come to visit these days, I sleep in the guest room. Parts of my old room are still intact, but they are relocated or culled (by me) with each subsequent visit. I am ambivalent about moving to Calgary because all of my old “things” will accompany me. My current wardrobe, where I am housesitting, is a pair of pyjamas, short pants, long pants, about three shirts, a warm fleece, sock and underwear. They live on a chair. The possibility of a closet and a dresser (in the same room!), of dishes that are mine to break if I am clumsy, of bookshelves and not piles, this seems at once extravagant and desireable.  Along with this is the idea of coming home to a place that smells like home, knowing where to find the mop, the idea of dwelling somewhere without knowing that you will leave it in 2 or 3 months – I don’t know what to call that feeling. I could fit myself into a place, put things away, not store them in the corner of my room in boxes. It almost seems like a heavy existence, with so much invested in one place. 

On top of this ambivalence, I selfishly don’t want to live with a whole new person again. People are wonderful, people are beautiful, simply in that they are, and there are several acquaintances that I credit with helping me to see this. But, as Regina Spektor says, people are just people. And while that shouldn’t make you nervous, it should at least make you a little wary. We are all freaks. We have all cried in our rooms, left nigh-intolerable messes in the kitchen, let the bathroom turn into a science experiment. But in the pas-de-deux that is being a roommate, things can get hairy (especially if you live with me, as I shed like a cat). Learning someone else’s habits takes months, learning to be friends takes even longer; getting comfortable is a process. And then there’s this voice in my head that just wants to play guitar any time of day she likes and break her own dishes, please-and-thank-you.

My thought process is disintegrating, as it tends to at this point. There are benefits to living with people and I ought not to complain so much. There are benefits to living alone and I recognize that. Life is complicated, and I do like it that way. Otherwise, what would I ever have to talk about?

Any recommendations or ideas? Anyone looking for a roommate in Calgary this September?


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