What do the homes you’ve lived in as an adult say about you?

I recently peeled back how I came to make a new acquaintance, whom I met in blind-date type of situation; that unearthing took me back ten years and brought up people and times and visions of myself I haven’t thought of in forever.  That got me thinking about where we live and how that changes over the years.  Just as I found it fascinating to retrace how I came to know this new person, it was also a fun journey to retrace dwellings.

Think about where you’ve lived since you became an adult – any smiles come to your face?  Groans bubble up inside your throat?  Wistful for something?  Proud of how far you’ve come?

For each residence, some questions to reflect on –

  • What did you do for a living?
  • Who were you dating?
  • How much money was in your checking account?
  • What was your happiness level?
  • What activities made up your social life?
  • Who were your friends?
  • Who did you live with?
  • What were your priorities?  [in housing, in life, in love, in work, in family]
  • Why’d you choose this place?
  • Why’d you move?

Below are the six apartments I’ve lived in post-college, in chronological order —

1. Fremont Street, August 2000 – August 2001, age 21 to 22

After graduating from Boston College in 2000, I was supposed to go to Kingston, Jamaica to teach English at a boys Jesuit highschool, where I had stayed as a junior on a community service trip.  A month before I was supposed to leave, the program was canceled due to violence.  And so I found myself living back home with mom, in a too small 1-bedroom Evanston apartment, working at Cafe Express.  In order to be an adult, I had to get a downtown job to which I traveled via the El, I had to get an apartment in the city by myself, and I had to buy a couch.  Luckily, all three were realized within a couple of months, and I soon found myself with a Wacker Drive work address and a Wrigleyville home address.

One evening in my living room, I heard a loud buzzing and thought I was being attacked by locusts.  It was the crowd at Wrigley reacting to the Cubs game a few blocks away.  That was cool.

I learned that courtyard buildings, while pretty, are not for me; I don’t like looking directly into my neighbor’s apartment.  No more of those.

2. Sheffield Avenue, September 2001 – December 2002, age 22 to 24

I can’t believe I paid what I did in rent that first year out of school.  My non-profit salary definitely did not encourage a Wrigleyville one-bedroom.  But I was very into being “normal,” which is why I lived in that neighborhood and why I had a gym membership at LPAC; after an abnormal childhood, I was ready to be Ashley who drove a Jetta and shopped at Whole Foods and Anthropologie.  I decided I could give up the living-solo life if I could stay mainstream and with-it by remaining between Irving and Belmont, Halsted and Clark.  Three roommates and I [one was a friend of a friend and two were Craigslisters] moved into a four-bedroom, two blocks from my first place.

While there were many wonderful things about having roommates again, I eventually came to realize that the roommate phase has passed for me, and adopted the saying, “My next roommate will be my husband, if and when that happens…” and began the search for my own place.

3. Seeley Avenue, January 2003 to December 2006, age 24 to 28

When I first moved to Chicago, I couldn’t believe that anyone lived west of Ashland.  “Out there” was so far, so foreign, so not on the redline or close to the Lake.  After two years in Wrigleyville,  I couldn’t wait to move to the other side and my housing criteria did a 180.

  • Within walking distance of stuff, but not in the armpit of congestion
  • On the brownline
  • Building with only four to six units
  • Quiet street
  • Easy parking
  • Neighborhood feel with mix of families and young folk
  • No drunk fratties screaming outside your window at 2AM or peeing on your lawn

I loved loved loved this place.  It was huge, I talked the landlord down $200 a month so was getting it at a steal, and it was in Roscoe Village, which I’ve come to view as the best neighborhood to live in in Chicago.  So many warm memories here, one of which is making the huge transition from being a 9 to 5’er to being self-employed and working from home.

After four years, a dishwasher, laundry in the building, and a non-enclosed porch became important.  I also dipped my toes in the “buying a place” water, and unfortunately, pricey Roscoe Village was out of the question for that endeavor.  So I moved to Ravenswood Manor where one-bedroom condos were more in my price range, to try it out and see if I wanted to take the homeowner leap.

4. Wilson Avenue, January 2007 to May 2008, age 28 to 29

Amazing how much more space you can get if you move to a neighborhood a little further out!  Huge two-bedroom for the same amount as my previous one-bedrooms.  Dishwasher!  Laundry!  Porch!  But hated living on a busy street, especially one so narrow that everyone parks half on the curb and half off, and even that way, my mirror was knocked off three times.  Also did not feel the safety I felt in the other neighborhoods, nor did I enjoy running outside due to the cat calls, or walking around due to a lack of cuteness that the other areas had.  And it was just too far.

Every time I drove through Roscoe Village, it whispered sweet nothings in my ear and I felt a twang of wistfulness.  I had to move back.  Even if it meant staying a renter, paying more, and having less space.

5. School Street, June 2008 to July 2009, age 29 to 30

There was nothing great about this place except it was in Roscoe Village.  And it had a completely rehabbed kitchen; the faux-marble countertops and the faux-cherry wood cabinets seduced me.  I knew it wasn’t permanent so dealt with the lack of character, too many units, just graduated-college tenants, low ceilings, long-haul to the train, and horrid closet space.

By this time, the Minglers were really taking off.  One hot, sticky July Mingler, as forty guests wiped sweat out of their eyes as they tried to make good first impressions with potential dates, employers, friends, I knew it was time to find somewhere more conducive to what had become a real part of my business.

6. Ravenswood Avenue, August 2009 – current, age 30 to ?

I never wanted to be that person who moved every year and swore to myself, this would be the last one for awhile.  By this uprooting, I was VERY clear on what I desired in a home; people laughed when they saw how specific I was and said dismissively, “Good luck!”  But here I am, living in utopia, a Roscoe Village converted toy-factory, and the happiest I’ve ever been.  Besides deciding to become self-employed, moving here was the biggest business risk I’ve taken in the six years on my own.  Signing the lease was very scary as it’s a bajillion more than what I’ve ever paid.  But a main reason why I moved here was so that I could do more revenue-generating activities, and thus far, it’s worked out even better than expected.

Where have you lived?  What have those homes said about you?  What’s your housing criteria, and how has it changed?