I’ve lived a lot of places. Once as a child I lived in four houses and four different school districts in four years. I’ve put down roots in 4 states. In the two years around our wedding, Justin and I moved 6 times between us.
Over the years, two values have emerged as important to me when it comes to housing: castle and connection.
The concept of “castle” comes from my enneagram type. Having a place of peace and refuge, set apart from the world, is very important to me. I’ve always sought out small, hidden places that I can call my own. When I have shared rooms in the past (which I’ve enjoyed), I’ve needed to claim a place, either separate or within, that’s just “mine.” In one apartment I set up a tiny desk, chair, and lamp in a closet at the end of the hall. I would close the door and be able to touch all four walls without moving. My roommates called it my “cloffice.” This took place in the era of the unabomber and Whitney Houston being stalked in The Bodyguard. A friend who stopped by one time looked in, and seeing all my pictures and inspirational quotes on the wall, said in a disturbed tone of voice, “You could do some serious obsessing in here.” I wasn’t obsessing, I wasn’t plotting – I just love having my own little private castle where I can retreat once in a while.
My other value is connection. I have lived in some places where alienation is the predominant vibe. You walk outside and it’s empty, or it’s a giant highway, or people are reserved and unfriendly. You don’t feel “at home” in your neighborhood, you have no sense of ownership. You have to get in your car in order to connect with people. Walking out your door may or may not feel physically unsafe, but at least it feels uncomfortable, awkward, just a place to pass through to get to a “real” place. Feeling alienated in your neighborhood or city is one of the most depressing things I can imagine.
How can I have both castle and connection? Is it possible? It is. We have both right now. I love where we live. This apartment is my favorite place of everywhere I’ve ever lived. It’s a second floor apartment across from Justin’s alma mater and our current place of work. The windows look out over a major street and the campus, and the door opens to a quiet side street with a little café with outdoor seating. A giant fraternity house is next door, and we have a view of their entryway from our side window.
Here’s how we have both castle and connection. One, we have boundaries. Sometimes we lock the door, close the blinds, and watch Harry Potter. No phones, no facebook, no answering the door. Two, we host. Sometimes we unlock the door and let lots and lots of people in. We open our windows to sirens, construction, neighbors. We meet friends at coffeeshops and restaurants within blocks, and we see people we know – students, friends, co-workers, homeless guys, old ladies walking dogs, the custodian who used to clean our ministry room on campus. All are neighbors. We walk through our neighborhood with a sense of ownership. We know what’s going on, we’re nosy and involved. We walk places. Three, we value longevity. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 9 years, with a year and a half off in the middle. A new restaurant opening is big news, and we visit as soon as possible (unless it’s Quiznos). We’ve seen it change, and we love what has stayed the same.
Though this will probably be our last year in this apartment, I’m so thankful for our connected castle.