When I had the opportunity to live it up in a college town, I quit my awesome-paying job, broke up with my jerk of a boyfriend, and took off for Eugene, Oregon. Go Ducks! I, like many of my 20-something contemporaries at the time, was in the process of acquiring a great deal of ridiculous debt, making bad new choices, and meeting awesome strangers to make those choices with. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Socially, my mind exploded and I made friendships I still value today. Financially, it was disastrous. I was as broke as a bad joke trying to pull off school, work, and life with a vodka soda in my hand. That supreme brokeness and absurd multi-tasking led me in a lot of different directions, one of which was into a basement.
After a chaotic time of moving between shared apartments, attics, and rooms in other people’s houses, the introvert in me had had it. I needed to live on my own. My budget or rather, lack thereof it, married with college town rates afforded me one not-so-stellar option, a cement box apartment. “One small window to watch folk’s feet pass by, a cold shower, and spiders a plenty, you say? Well sign me up, I say. I’ll take it, I say.” My little box was cold year round, they said there was heat, I was billed for heat, there wasn’t heat. I had to go outside and up the stairs to make a phone call, and I didn’t have the internet. I could hear everything the couple upstairs said, did, and promised to do for one another and the electricity went out daily. Every single day. It was a cold, dark, concrete cave with a door.
When I look back on that moment, a clip of my young life which felt endless, I can appreciate it for what it actually was. Cold showers are good for you, they give you more energy. I’d never been much of a phone talker, and without the internet, I could commit myself more fully to my true love, books. They were lonely without me, so on and so forth. I can see how truly brief that time was, and recall it fondly. I worked hard to make that place my own. I decorated its walls and spent my precious pennies in thrift stores to find the pieces that fit. I bundled up, wrote journals, re-read books, and hung out with my VCR every night. I loved my concrete box because that box cave was mine. I made it mine. I owned it.
I live with my little family on top of a hill with a stream and a waterfall now. No, really, I do. Our showers are always hot, the heat works, and the internet force is strong here. We have phone reception, and the spiders stay outside for the most part. We don’t have a basement, not here.
Owning your space, be it in a tiny basement or on top of a hill is as rewarding as your perspective chooses it to be. Ownership is not a given, it’s a choice. If you feel like it’s impossible, it is. If you can’t create a home with what you have, where you’re at already, how do you expect to create a home somewhere else?
My little cold cave of ole’ taught me a lot, some nifty tricks and a little DIY, but the most important lesson I learned from that basement is this: Home is something you create and take with you. Make it and own it. When you are ready to grow, it will too. When you figure this out, you will be ready to make your move.