I’ve been pretty lucky for the last three years to have a wonderful landlord who never increased my rent and has always maintained a great relationship between my boyfriend and I. At some point, I probably thought we were living the rent-controlled life à la Monica in Friends, Ted in How I Met Your Mother and well... Every other sitcom character based in New York.
But I really did get too comfortable.
Three months ago, our landlord told us that we need to leave in three months so that he could give the apartment to his parents. Cue a skyrocketing heart rate (thanks for the info, Fitbit), sweaty fingertips on my keyboard scrolling through Craigslist, waking up the next day and hoping it wasn’t real, but the pit of my stomach said otherwise. Embedded in this massive cushion that was my neighbourhood, my friends and the beach nearby… I forgot that this space was not mine.
And luckily for me, I have never quite experienced the emotional toll of moving against my will. Yes, I’ve packed up and trudged around to a total of seven houses during my childhood. I helped my parents pack up to move to Canada, moved to Canada myself, Sweden on exchange, helped my parents move back to Kenya, my brothers to university… You get the picture. It’s not the endless boxes in that irked me, it was the fact that it was happening because I had no choice. Even though we had discussed moving out plenty of times before, we just never got around to it.
I was afraid of change. I bet you are too.
My boyfriend and I also recently adopted a dog, which we had been waiting to do for the last few years. And if you live in Vancouver — you’ll know housing isn’t easy to come by when you have a dog. Lucky for us though, it was one of the reasons we loved our pet-friendly place; for the possibility it allowed us to bring him into our lives.
Barely three months after settling in and adjusting: the notice to leave came. And all of a sudden, I found myself reflecting on all the details of our neighbourhood, and just how well I knew them. Like:
- The one tree a block down that was surrounded by a short picket fence, and burst into hundreds of magnolias every spring. Only bloomer on the block, every year.
- The old British man I saw on his walk everyday, who always asked how my dog is doing, and how was he settling in?
- The family in the deli around the corner who always greeted me when I came in.
- The opera singer at the beach who walked around in the summer shouting Pavarotti to the rooftops.
- The crazy neighbours directly above us, who were obnoxiously loud, but highly entertaining when they argued. #sorrynotsorry #thinwalls
- The brunch place that had never changed its menu, was always full, but didn’t have a wait time longer than 10 minutes. The waitress who always had a new hair colour and eventually realized I basically knew the menu by heart, and asked for my order as soon as I sat down.
- The one log where my dog just loved to poop. If you did not take him to said log, you would have to wait around a while for something as poop-worthy.
It was really the little things. But it takes so long to get to know your neighbours, find your favourite diner and even learn your dog’s favourite spots to do his business. So it wasn’t the ordeal of moving material things away — it was the exhausting thought of rebuilding neighbourhood love and familiarity from the ground up again.
And just like moving from my comfort zone is exhausting, daunting and stressful, maybe we don’t all have to wait for a big nudge to move on to new things. We had been talking about moving out for so long, but just never did it — because we were so comfortable.
Maybe we don’t all have to wait for a big nudge to move on to new things.
Likewise… Every week, I hear people talk about how things like their jobs are well-paid, comfortable, convenient (read: cheap rent, good enough, great location), but they aren’t necessarily feeling challenged. Or maybe how their city isn’t right for them, but they’re scared of losing everything by moving away.
I felt that way after two years working for someone else — and while deciding to leave and work for myself was uncomfortable and scary, I haven’t looked back since. Like all big changes, it took a while for the dust from those moving boxes to settle down, but that’s exactly what always happens — the dust settles down.
So: if you have your eyes set on something new, exciting, scary, challenging — maybe give it a shot.
Don’t be like me, and wait for the landlord to kick you out.
P.S. Moving was the worst. Unpacking was awful. It took two months, but finally, a new place is feeling like home, and there’s so much to look forward to.
P.P.S. Hells yeah I miss the old place. But now we have more space, light for all the plants my heart could desire, no insane neighbours, and our dog finally found some new poop spots (praise the tree down the road!). Favourite neighbourhood brunch: TBD.