Here are some ways I’ve discovered to thrive in small spaces with a romantic partner.
I moved back to St. Louis from New York three years ago. (Cue the tears) It was a very hard decision after vowing never to live here again after leaving for college. For at least half of my time here I’ve been very resistant to the fact that St. Louis, a region rife with racial tensions, and a culture that feels very, very odd to me is my home again. I left because I never felt St. Louis was a place that reflected my spirit and my values. And being back, I’ve often felt indescribably alone, finding it difficult to connect with like-minded souls. This is the kind of city where people have social bonds that date back to grade school. Attempting to break into those cliques is generally futile. There are friendly people here, but making friends is hard. Finding a decent job has been hard. Building a life here has been hard. And I haven’t had the comforting refuge of a welcoming home that I’ve need to shield me from the rough edges of the latest version of my evolving life.
So, if the outside world here isn’t as welcoming as I’d like, I’ve at least wanted to feel as if I can take refuge at home. Like one of my favorite designers Nate Berkus says: “Your home to should rise up to greet you.” Well, for the past three years my little apartment has just yawned when I walk through the door. Why? Because my things have been in storage in New York for the bulk of my time here.
The few pieces of furniture I’ve had were donated. People from church and a woman I worked for were kind enough to give me the basics. So though I was blessed to be able to move into my place with the essentials that allowed me to eat, work, and sleep, none of it is a reflection of me. I’ve been in a makeshift dwelling that merely serves the purpose of providing shelter — it's not a place that feels like home. Home is not only where you are, but who you are. If you know who you are, you can be whole anywhere, but being separated from my things has made it challenging for me to feel fully connected to myself.
Recently I got my things shipped and it felt great to have my stuff back! My table, the first piece of “real” furniture I ever bought when I finally had enough money to build my former little home in Brooklyn.
My dresser, the one I had a dream about and then found in a store in Chelsea and envision in the foyer of the house I hope to have one day. My Basquiat print (that got cracked in transit) — the type of thing that gives a place personality.
I’ve missed my tassel earrings — the ones I’ve had forever — that go great with my perfect black date clutch. (If I ever actually have a meaningful black date here.) And my music! I loved music growing up. It was my escape I’ve missed being able to play my own selection of music to start my day or wind down. Streaming sites are cool, but not personalized. And listening to music on your phone is definitely not the same experience as getting the full sound from actual speakers. Seeing how much music I have, I remembered how much it’s meant to me in my life. Digging through the boxes of my life, I’ve re-discovered a lot.
What’s interesting is I’ve realized that during this separation from my physical history, though core parts of me are the same, I’ve changed. I’ve transitioned. Unpacking my things has been a journey in reflecting on who I was when I left New York, and who I am now.
My aesthetics have changed. I had so much black in my Brooklyn apartment. I don’t want that anymore. I love the light, buttery walls where I am now, coupled with brighter tones and fun patterns. I choose to believe my current living space is reflecting the evolution of my internal emotional space. The same can be said for pieces of my old and new wardrobe. My consciousness has changed. I found some spiritual and self-help books, realizing I no longer need their validation and explanation. I can provide myself with support, and trust my own instincts. I’m no longer connected to many of the people in my old photos. I’ve revamped my needs and expectations for what works for me in relationships. Looking through my things has helped me feel connected to my authentic self, and affirms my evolvement.
Things don’t dictate who you are, but they do represent your life’s journey – who you are, where you’ve been and what you’ve left behind. Having the pieces of my life with me now helps me feel more settled, centered, and ultimately, more at home.