Cats, Homes and Mental Break Downs

As promised, here is a post about the in-depth and emotional spiral about my apartment. I must warn you, it will get a little bit ridiculous, but please bear with me because it will be worth it. And if it’s not worth it go to Tumblr and look up cat gifs, that’ll improve your mood.

Yesterday, I had the not so jolly experience of taking down what was left of my decorations (i.e. my curtains). More than that, my neighbor came by to take the boxspring and bed frame I had no desire to sell and to buy off me my desk and my desk-chair. They are but pieces of furniture, objects made of pressed carton, metal and bought at a cheap price (especially if second-hand). Yet to me, for the two years I had them (and some I had for even longer) they were my work station, the pillars that prompted my dreams while I slept and while I was awake. They were more than just objects; they were part of my home.

It’s not easy moving away from home to be closer to your university; especially in the conditions I was forced to leave. Being an overachiever and a workaholic I found myself sleeping less and working more the first year of my college life. I travelled each day from my house to my university; it took a good 1 hour and 40 minutes to get from one end to the other, with traffic. Each day was a hassle but I managed. It was not until I developed gastritis and a mental break down that I saw myself forced to ask my parents to live next to campus. My father was against it (he thinks death will get me if I’m not in immediate proximity to him); my mother was all for it. The war ensued and, after various casualties, my mother and I won.

Finding an apartment was another adventure, especially when it was mid semester. Unluckily, we found an apartment. I said ‘unluckily’ because my stay in that one bedroom apartment felt more like a prison than a home. The walls were permanently white, the windows reached the ceiling but nothing could be seen, and nobody would visit but me and my dreams. It was on a third floor with neighbors who did not like the sound of my voice and looked estranged if I said ‘good morning’. In the throes of my mental disorders I sought the comfort of my memories at home. I thought about the wild open spaces of my farm, the sound of birds and frogs at night, the soft purr of my cat, the laughter of my father and mother and the occasional yell from my brother. Now in the city, I found myself shutting out all the music from the pubs, the smell of urine, cologne, cigarettes and beer. Where nature once filled my space, now I saw concrete and grey. I was constantly bombarded with noise and people, yet I felt quietness in my soul; not of peace but of expectancy. I waited silently, hoping for some change.

It did happen, things did change. I got help and started a new exercise routine. I got a job and got mentored by one of the best psychology professors. I learned to live by myself, to make budgets and live on minimum wage. Yet, my apartment was not home. Those four walls (all white like an asylum), that long hall (which had a habit of turning into a pool when it rained), that small living room (with no view) and that room (where I dreamed with my eyes opened or closed) were never a home. My parents saw that there wasn’t much change; they still saw the sadness and the pain. My father thought a pet would make the transition better. They got me a black cat, a fluffy little devil that liked to play and attack me in the dark. Who enjoys cuddles while I sleep and who hides under my sheets. It felt weird to me, because even though I love cats, it meant more change. I felt like I was abandoning my old cat, but I wasn’t; I just couldn’t force her (she being so old) into a new environment. And thus, she stayed on the farm while I walked the city with my new kitty (no pun intended).

In a way I felt like my old cat. Accustomed to the farm life, afraid or honking cars and loud pedestrians. However, unlike me, I left her with my parents; in those comfortable rocky and grassy acres which we called home. She was free to run and hunt without a care and I was in my asylum of an apartment trying to rid myself of the wildness I learned at home. Nevertheless, we all paid a price. While I was being comforted by my new kitty, my old cat would find my room empty without me to greet her; without me to scratch that small crevice behind her ear like only I know how to do. Without me to give her butterfly kisses when she woke me up in the morning. It seems silly to value such interactions with a cat but it was her who made home a better place to live at. And while I was stepping out and making my life anew, she was still at home, standing by my door waiting to wake me up even though I hadn’t been there all week.

These were some of the things I had to give up in order to have a better life. One may think one thing (a cat) can replace another but it doesn’t work that way. Each cat I loved differently for different things; much like my old and my new life. I saw myself choosing between the life at home where if I stayed I would only wane away even more but enjoy some of the things I loved the most; or the life in my apartment where I was able to finally grow but had to learn to let go. I don’t know if I chose right, all I know is that I fought with all my might and was able to get my life back on track; even though it was on a different road.

As soon as I was getting my footing, I left my first apartment. It was a year and a half in that place; my mother felt nostalgic, I did not. God led the way and we found a small house with many apartments owned by an old lady, Doña Miriam. It took us a week to get a hold of her and five minutes to decide which apartment I wanted.  It was a small one bedroom, one bathroom and one living room (kitchen and dining room) apartment. It was spacious, it was colorful. It felt comfortable, it was my new home. My room was purple and white (I painted it), the kitchen/living/dining room was a combination of red, gold, brown and black. It was all the colors of my soul; it was all the space I would ever need in the last two years of my degree.

In that space I found laughter, I found peace. I found reality, I found my dreams. I met with friends, enemies and boyfriends. It was there in that living room where I called it quits with the putz I was with since high school. It was in that living room where I shared my first kiss with the man of my dreams; where I told him not to say the words and he still told me he loved me. It was in that bedroom where my old friends visited without any notice. It was in that bedroom where my new bestie spent her summer when she had no apartment; where we stayed up until 5 am talking about our existence and complaining about My Chemical Romance calling it quits. It was in that living room where I rekindled friendships from my freshman year at college; where I would sit down and complain about a certain ballsitter, and a guy who smelled like the aftermath of a night’s worth of partying.  It was in that room where my significant other and I would sit (he on the bed and me on the desk) and race one another to see who would finish their essay first; where we would talk about our future and fight about whether or not to make our English professor the godfather of the wedding.

It was in that apartment where my life finally began. For once, everything started making sense; it was not about not making changes but making the right ones. It was about knowing who to let go and who to hold onto. It was about realizing that you can’t stop time, and that the best way to capture every moment was not through a camera but through living it. I had many good and bad times in that apartment. It meant so much to me to have a haven, to have a place where I could just rest my head after a long day, a place to welcome friends and memories. And now I find myself dismantling my home, preparing it for someone else who would probably grow within those four walls, who will know what it’s like to go through their first breakup, to know what it’s like to be abandoned by friends, to learn to live like an adult and meet people with your same interests and actually fall in love. I truly do hope that she takes away from that place as much as I did. It hurts me to have to leave and expect to find a better place or even similar to the one I had; but that’s just life. Those concrete walls hold more secrets than the government; they hold more emotion than a book by Nicholas Sparks. And they were all mine.

Having a place to come to, not a shelter or an asylum; a place where you feel at home and can actually grown and learn to be strong is a rare thing to find. It sounds cheesy, but home is where your hearts is. Appreciate your time there; you never know when you’ll be forced to live in a place you don’t like.

Signing off,

TWS

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