Monday, February 6, 2012
I am a perpetual renter.
I've been happily renting for five years now, skipping from city to city and apartment to apartment as happy as a kid with a one-bedroom cupcake. Renting is irrefutably tied to breezy city living, which suits me very well. I've had phenomenal luck finding wonderful spaces bursting with amenities - home ownership, so it seemed, with minimal responsibility involved. "Why would you possibly want to own," I would blithely proclaim, "when you can rent?"
Apparently there's at least one really good reason: that space, that glorious piece of real estate, does not in any way, shape or form, belong to you. And unless you're willing to take that next step and become an owner, you should not count on it to be there when you want or need it.
We have been squatting for almost two years now on a gorgeous Brooklyn one-bedroom, a true New York anomaly. Plenty of space, sound-proofed walls, brand-new finishings and appliances, natural light pouring in through every double-wide, doubled-paned window. We're tucked in a nook behind the Manhattan bridge overpass in DUMBO, quite possibly the cutest little four-block stretch of cobbled streets and greenspace that the East River bank has to offer. We're one of the only buildings in DUMBO with reasonable rent, one of the only buildings that hasn't gone condo. It's my first New York apartment, my first adult apartment (with paint and purchased furniture), my first home together with Sir. I want to stay in this apartment for the rest of my life, or at least the next ten years. Or maybe five years. Suffice to say, we were definitely planning on renewing our lease in June.
I guess I've never stayed in an apartment long enough to know that permanent renter-status isn't always a possibility.
As of February 1st, in fact, that option is no longer on the table. We had heard rumblings in the elevator, but now here it was in black and white, staring back at me like an ugly purple bruise from the top of my inbox. Sir and I scanned and rescanned the brief letter from the rental company that explained the situation in broken-English legalese. I read aloud, he paced. It sounded a little something like this:
"Blah blah... selling the units as condos... first right of refusal for 60 days, at which point we will begin marketing your space... yada yada will not be renewing your lease... shit."
In other words, if we like it, then we need to put a ring on it. And I felt a tiny bit shocked and hurt to be given an ultimatum. Isn't my love... my rent money... our lease... isn't that enough?
It is not. It says so, right there on the screen.
All matters of whether or not I've conscientiously saved a sizable down payment aside (I definitely have not), I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for that kind of commitment. The thought of being tied to a city and a space is giving me a tiny panic attack, making me want to run and scream and flail my arms and put a Jen-shaped hole in the wall.
As a person who dives headfirst into relationships before ever even thinking to check the depth of the pool, I've always thought of myself as about as commitment-phobic as a golden retriever. But apparently when it comes to living situation, I can only handle my commitment doled out in one-year-at-a-time-sized slices. Per my recent track record, I haven't been able to commit to a city for more than a year and a half since I left Milwaukee, let alone an apartment. I haven't felt particularly trapped by any of my living arrangements, yet here I am. Why can't I stay in one place? Am I a person who is looking for an easy escape, should things go awry?
And if so, what's wrong with that, exactly?
I think for the first time in my life, I am beginning to understand why people get freaked out by marriage.
To be clear, I am aware that we live a wonderful and privileged life and that losing our amazing apartment does not count as a personal tragedy. I am not looking for any sympathy on this. Actually, we are both control freaks and have already found several options for new apartment buildings that will suit us just fine, even if they are not 100% as perfect as our DUMBO bungalow. I just found this little episode interesting. That's all.