When I moved to Chicago in a hurry last July, I took one of the first apartments I saw — in part because I didn’t have the time to look more thoroughly, and in part because it was a really nice apartment in a REALLY SUPER AWESOME location. It was a little high for my budget, but manageable if I was careful.
I just got the paperwork for my lease renewal and I suppose I should have seen it coming — up-and-coming (read: gentrifying) neighborhood, apartment mere steps from the train — of course there’s a rent increase.
Yesterday, as I walked down Fullerton Avenue on my way to an apartment showing, carrying a bottle of Perrier, it was not lost on me that a white woman drinking sparkling water and walking westward along Fullerton pretty much summarized exactly why my rent had increased in the first place. I am part of my own problem, and of the problem plaguing my neighbors that have lived here longer and make less money.
I’ve moved a lot in my 35 years, and while I’ve never liked it, it’s never been particularly traumatic for me. I adapt easily to new places and tend to get along with people I meet, so while the actual mechanics of moving are never fun or pleasant, I’ve never felt so attached to a building or a location that I was really distraught at the prospect of leaving it.
When I first got the news about the rent increase, I felt a little excited — the part of me that enjoys exploring Chicago thought it might be cool to experience another neighborhood. But my excitement quickly turned to dismay and real sadness. I find that I am actually quite attached to my apartment in the short time I’ve lived here, and the thought of leaving it makes me feel weepy and hopeless.
Maybe it’s because it’s the first home I’ve known in this city, and I’ve been so happy here (happier than I’ve ever been in my life) that I’m worried a change of location would directly impact my happiness. I know that doesn’t make any sense, though, and I’m a pretty logical/practical person. This place isn’t even that amazing. Aside from the location, it’s got some serious flaws — my kitchen floor is so uneven I could easily turn it into an indoor water feature, and some of the windows are so drafty that multiple layers of plastic and fabric had to be used to keep out the winds of the polar vortex. So why am I so sad?
Perhaps it’s because it’s not my choice, because I’m not breaking up with the apartment — it’s breaking up with me. Whatever the reason, I’m really trying to look at all the bright sides, of which there are definitely a few. For one, the rent here has always been a little high for me. Moving somewhere else will allow me more disposable income, which would be nice. I still feel excited about getting to know another part of the neighborhood or the city, and I would like a floor that meets the walls at an angle that more closely approximates 90 degrees.
I’ll probably shed more than a few tears about it though, and I guess maybe it’s good to know that I can feel so attached to a location, that putting down roots somewhere is more than just a practical or logical move — it can be something I feel passionately about and have real feelings for. It also tells me that I’ve really come to call Chicago home very quickly and that’s a good feeling, too. Luckily, I’m only leaving the apartment and not the city, so I suppose wherever I end up, I’ll still be home.