A month home now, a month into my new (great!) job, and thoughts of traveling and dive mastering and heartbreaking recede into the distance every time I wash my hair in the mouldy, paint-peeling shower of this flat or bemoan the lack of bench space in the kitchen. It’s meant to be the second day of autumn as I write this, sitting on my neatly made bed, two sets of drawers now instead of one, looking out the window to the back gardens of Mt. Victoria. It’s sunny but windy outside, about right for this time of year. I went to the Newtown Fair this morning for a while and meant to go back after I went home for lunch, but then I needed to clean the bathroom and then I thought I might bake some cookies for my movie night and now it doesn’t seem worth it to go out again. It’s a school night, after all. Work in the morning and everything.
We plan to sell the house on the island next year, my sister and I, and that will relieve us of some responsibilities and bring on others. I could go around the world, probably–maybe for several years. I could just save up, for whatever may happen years from now. I could buy a house.
I’ve been in this flat for almost four years and I love it in a way that has almost nothing to do with the flat itself, if that makes sense: the unventilated bathroom, the lack of insulation, the peeling wallpaper—TO NAME BUT A FEW–all drive me mad every day. I love it because it came to me when I needed it, and gave me access to a community I didn’t know I needed, and because it allowed me space to be alone and to make things (almost) just like I like them. It’s been a little haven for me during the roughest two years of my life—I worked very hard, in 2012, to make sure I could come back to it when I had to go away.
It still feels like a haven to me, of sorts. Now I share it with someone else, which has taken some adjustment but is very agreeable, and I still just like being at home a lot. I don’t go out very much or very late anymore—although as I am writing this I just received a text message to go back out the fair to see a band I’ve wanted to see but never have, and actually maybe I will—but I like being so close to town, and I like living within three blocks of several close friends. I like our little neighbourhood movie night, for which I will not be baking cookies if I go see this band.
I can’t afford to buy in this neighbourhood, not really. Maybe a two-bedroom flat, which I guess could be quite good because how much space does one, maybe two people need? That’s a good and sensible plan, to keep my lifestyle here: carless, compact, convenient. My middle class upbringing in the suburbs is really shining through now, though, because instead I have begun to fantasize about a guest room. Maybe in Island Bay? Double-glazed windows, which in New Zealand are almost as rare as the native birds. A mural on every wall, if I felt like it. Custom-made curtains, a dishwasher drawer, restored vintage furniture, cunning little prints from Etsy—if it’s been on a design blog then obviously I want it. I now think, for some unknown reason, that I could reupholster chairs with fun graphic fabrics. I now think, all evidence to the contrary, that I can grow fresh herbs in a windowsill.
I also think about being able to practice hospitality again. I think about having more control of the space I live in: being able to change things I don’t like, make the things I do like even better. I think about peace and safety, and about the comfort of routine. “How you live your day is how you live your life,” says a friend of mine, and I think about the kind of life I want, sometimes to have, with its practiced ease and regular joys. I think, a little, about actually settling down. I’ve been in Wellington seven and a half years and have no plans to leave. Why not get a mortgage? Why not feather a nest? Why not grow up?
“Plans,’ of course, is the key word, in all this pondering. This all requires decision-making, which is a lot—-a lot–less compelling than day-dreaming.