Not too long ago, there was a period of time when I moved six times in 18 months. That's an average of moving every 90 days! My friend, Katie, jokes that I probably still have mail all over the city. And she's right! Just before we left for Kenya, I picked up a check from a house I haven't lived in since April 2013.
I walked up to the old rental and smiled as I thought of all the nights Melly and I spent there together. It was for sale then, which meant rent for the newly renovated, four-bedroom, two-bathroom Highlands home was only $450. It also meant we had constant showings and weren't allowed to host guests.
Just a few months before we moved in, I'd gone through a breakup. In retrospect, it wasn't a significant relationship, but, in the moment, it stung a bit. We'd dated for eight months and he was my Good on Paper Boyfriend.
The trouble with Good on Paper Boyfriends is they allow us to easily imagine Paper Futures, even if chemistry and emotions aren't there. When he lit our Paper Future on fire, it hurt to watch it burn.
A few weeks after we broke up, Melly, Katie and I returned from Christmas to learn that the rats, with which our house had been infested in October, had returned. Over Christmas, my mom had washed all of my clothes after we decided they smelled like rats. I wanted to cry at the thought of doing that much laundry again.
We called our landlord and told him this wasn't working; we had to break our lease. He agreed. The rats needed to be professionally handled, with chemicals humans couldn't inhale. We needed to move out. It's worth noting that this house has since been torn down.
Katie, just a few months from her wedding, moved in with her sister. Melly and I moved into the Show Home sight unseen, for a fraction of the rent we'd been paying to live with rats. By the time we moved in, we felt like we'd survived something. We'd been to battle and walked away from it. Only one injury sustained! Some clothes, jewelry and furniture lost to the human-sized rats, sure. But, for the most part, unscathed!
The Show Home was across from multiple bars and restaurants, which isn't a problem at all when you're 26. Nowadays? Too noisy! Then? No Uber! It was a phase marked by too much money spent at Target and too many tacos and margaritas ordered at the Mexican restaurant across the street. It was a season of staying too late at Dark Horse and becoming obsessed with live music at Blind Willie's.
Now, when I think about those days, I envision us as two carefree city girls, moving all around cool areas of town and eating tacos. But, when I look a little more closely, I remember I felt like my life was a disaster.
I never had enough money. We didn't know how long it would be until we were moving again. Should we even unpack!? I had no clue what I wanted to do for a living. Meanwhile, it felt like all of our friends were getting married, going to grad school and leaving the city. I was so tired of being single and felt like I was getting left behind. There were days when I'd declare I was going to buy a house, because I could totally do this on my own! And then other days I'd ask my parents if it would be cool if I moved back in.
Life felt chaotic and uncertain and messy. And those feelings weren't fleeting but instead like a heavy, unmovable cloud.
Little did I know that, just three months later, we'd be moving into a duplex that would become my longest Atlanta residence, for more than four years. It would become my most significant home in the city and, just three weeks after moving in, I'd meet Chris. It would become a place of so much joy, where I got to live with both Melly and my brothers simultaneously. It would become the place where Chris picked me up for both our first date and the night he asked me to marry him. It would become our first married home, where we'd return after our honeymoon. It would be a place where we'd host dear friends for bible study and wine nights and Write Nights.
I tell you this because I want you to know that your life might feel like a jumbled disaster of tacos, too. So many of my clients feel like this season of life is pure chaos; they want to throw their hands up and declare a do-over.
I just want you to know that this is normal. Your 20s are hard. But, I promise you they get easier. It might take a little longer than you expect. Things might not shape up exactly like the Paper Dreams you created years ago. But, they do get easier. And better.
Someday, you'll be walking up to an old rental to pick up a check and you'll smile as you think about the time you covered the Show Home's fancy dining room table with trash bags so you could play flip cup with your friends without them knowing you had a party. But that's our secret :)