It has been a year since I moved into my apartment and when I think about how much has happened since then, it makes my head spin. Vaguely, I remember shopping for furniture. I remember winding my way through the maze that is Ikea, trying to find the perfect wood finish for my bookcase. I remember the cold October day when my family and friends helped me move in, how they all sat on the floor and built my bed frame, dresser, and nightstands. My sister, ever competitive, turned it into a race.
That night, we ordered pizza and salad and stood around in my kitchen with our plates in our hands. I had no table or chairs yet. Swimming in my own anxious thoughts, I remember putting on a face.
After my decade-long relationship ended, a lot of things changed.
Not only did I have to get used to being even more independent, but I now had to get used to thinking about “me” instead of “we.” Ironically, that was just what I needed.
Over the past 12 months, I have done a significant amount of work on myself. I am so proud of the progress I’ve made. When I read back the journal entries I wrote over the past year, I realize I really went through a lot, and in such a short timeframe.
I didn’t just go through your average serious break-up emotions and withdrawals. I also battled mountains of petty insecurities that weren’t based in reality. For weeks, I had a powerful desire to isolate myself from almost everyone and just cry every night. I also dealt with the seperation of my dog, who is now rightfully back in my care. And the excitement and fear of getting to know someone new is a whole other story.
Ultimately, I had to re-learn a lot of things as well as re-program my brain.
I had to open up my mind to new experiences and ideas. I am still learning. Every day, I am still trying. I am a much stronger person now because of it.
When I first got my apartment, it didn’t feel like home. I furnished it with only what was necessary. It just felt like a place where I could be alone and no one could bother me. I definitely didn’t want to share any of it online.
And for a while, it served its purpose. It became A Safe Place, one that was far away from the rest of the world and from Instagram. I raced to my apartment after work every after night and shut the door and didn’t come out again until the next morning; sometimes, not even then. Sometimes I’d just stay inside all day and play video games until my eyeballs ached. Other times, as the months progressed, I’d cuddle up with my new boyfriend and watch five episodes straight of The Handmaid’s Tale, True Detective, and Stranger Things.
This entire year, I have barely taken photos inside my apartment. And when I did, I hardly posted them anywhere. They were always just for me. It didn’t ever feel like a home I could share. It felt like if I shared it with the world, it would lose its secret magic and disappear.
But now that a year has passed, now that I have my dog back, it feels more like home to me.
Now, I’m buying more furniture I want but don’t need. I’m going to hang all the picture frames I left leaning against the walls. I’m going to finally unpack the last few boxes I have propped by the door.
When I first moved into my apartment, I noted the flower shop directly across the street. “The first thing I’m going to do when I get settled is buy myself flowers,” I told my mom. “I’m going to buy some every other week!”
That was a year ago and I still haven’t bought any. Every day when I get off at the bus stop, I pass the flower shop and I look inside. Its fluorescent neon signs light up my living room at night if I forget to shut the blinds.
I thought it would be symbolic if, right after a rough break-up, I bought myself flowers. But I never did. Even then, I felt like I didn’t deserve them. Even then, I was so hard on myself, denying myself a pleasure I wanted. A friend of mine once said no one ever had to punish me because I always punished myself.
I had the money, it was right there – why didn’t I ever go in?
Now, after this long and life-changing year, I think I’m going to buy myself flowers.
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Megan Portorreal is a professional writer, editor, and creative in the New York City area. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, writing about her life, and playing video games.