The Place I'm Going to Miss: On Moving Yet Again
Last September, I went to renew my lease at a quaint little apartment complex in East Nashville. I had lived there for a year, and unlike any of the other residences I’ve occupied since I moved out of my parent’s house over five years ago, I made that tiny unit my real home in a city I fell in love with upon my first few visits. I felt at peace when I was there. I no longer purposely stayed busy so I wouldn’t have to be at home; I wanted to be at home. I felt like I had finally settled down. Or, at least as settled down as I could be as a single twenty-something who was still renting.
When I went to re-sign that lease, the office manager told me that a property management company was buying the complex. She said that meant rent would likely increase, and that there was a chance they would try to vacate the units for renovations, which meant that they might try to evict us with 30 days notice. Naturally, I freaked out, but she assured us that chances of that happening were very slim, and my roommate had her brother, who is a lawyer, comb through our lease making sure we had some legal ground to stand on if we found ourselves in that situation. I felt pretty confident that things were going to be okay, and that I was going to be able to continue my life in that little apartment for a few more years.
Nearly five months after I signed that piece of paper, the nightmare began. The new company slowly started to take over, and their first order of business was to try and displace three buildings filled with tenants who had active leases. Luckily our building wasn’t on the list, but I was terrified that we were next. The new owners were proving that they couldn’t be trusted. A group of us got angry enough that we started meeting with an organization dedicated to fighting for affordable housing. The people facing eviction got lawyers involved and basically told the office to go screw themselves, because what they were trying to do was completely illegal. They eventually recanted their statement and blamed it on a misunderstanding. The truth was that they didn’t think we’d be smart enough to challenge them.
Our group opposing these changes started out with a lot of momentum. We met every week or so and discussed courses of action. We shared our stories of why this place was so special to us, and why it was so heartbreaking to consider the option of leaving. We told stories of our neighbors, particularly the elderly and Section 8 tenants, who were much less fortunate than us - “us” mostly being the young, creative types who were trying to make it in the entertainment industry. Some were nurses, some were editors and publishers, some were still in school. Some had families to support.
We all loved that place because it allowed us to live in a good part of the city without spending the bulk of our income on housing. It wasn’t anything fancy; there was no swimming pool, no fitness center, no tennis court. The outside of the buildings wasn’t beautiful, but we didn’t need it to be. It was comfortable. It was affordable.
It’s no secret that Nashville is experiencing severe growing pains. Everyone wants to live here. There are roughly 85 people moving here every single day, and the affordable housing options simply can’t keep up. Our complex was bought by a young, extremely rich dude who also lives on the East side and turned over to Brookside Properties to manage - a company who also displaced an entire Burmese community on the South side. When all of that is in front of your face, it seems incredibly unfair. As naive as that sounds, there’s just no other way of describing the situation. But, as I’ve had several people point out to me ever-so-gently after my endless rants on social media, nothing is owed to you when you’re a renter. “It’s just a business move,” they say. “That’s what happens in big cities.” I’m not arguing that. I’m just lamenting about how much it sucks.
I’m continually perplexed by the constant development of these luxury apartments and condos. Who are they for? They’re certainly not for me and the other thousands of millennials who are out here trying to make it in an industry that isn’t known for its distribution of wealth. So what happens to us? Right now, it looks like we’re going to be pushed farther and farther out of the city until the bubble bursts - if the bubble ever bursts - or we have to buy, which isn’t a feasible option for most of us either.
Eventually I accepted the fact that I was going to have to move. I found a three bedroom, two bathroom house 15 minutes down the road and snatched it up the minute I set foot in it.
Then I packed up everything I owned for the seventh time in five years. I tried to drastically decrease the amount of my belongings: the clothes I had in the back of my closet that I always thought I'd wear again but never did, the crumpled photographs of friends I used to have, the wall decor that didn’t fit my style anymore. I felt accomplished after all of the packing was said and done, but I already felt stressed out knowing that this was another temporary place.
I wonder sometimes if I'm making a mistake by being so nomadic, if I should be saving to own my piece of real estate: something more permanent, something that validates my worth as an adult. Sometimes it's hard to feel like an adult when I have no husband (or even a boyfriend), a house or a kid. My reasons for moving so much aren’t even because I travel too much to have roots anywhere. The reality is that I float from place to place because things change so rapidly. There's no real constant in my life yet, but I don't know if I want there to be.
As depressing as it can be sometimes, maybe my situation isn’t the worst of all. I have friends, fur babies, and an awesome job – all of which I hope will stick around for a long, long time. So maybe this is what allows me to have less responsibility for a little while longer so I can keep taking trips on a whim. Maybe I’m imagining that there is a rush for me to settle down and stake my claim. Even if all of that is true, it still doesn’t make the heartache of moving from place to place any easier.
In less than a week, I’ll be fully out of that place, after I pick up the last few boxes that I’ve stored there. I think I’m procrastinating so much because I don’t want it to be final. Even though I already love my new house, I fear that it won’t hold as much for me in the next two years as the old place did in the last two.
It was the first place I lived after reclaiming myself from a series of bad relationships.
The first place that ever felt like home to me as an adult.
The place I lived when I finally found my community of people in Nashville.
The place where I met a cute boy in building G, who I ended up falling way harder for than I wanted, who ended up not feeling the same.
The place where the wounds of an old relationship opened up when he moved in across the lot with his girlfriend, only to eventually realize that I’m better off.
The place that comforted me through some of the hardest times of my life.
The place where I felt so many things, and at times, nothing at all.
The place I’m going to miss more than any of them all.
[Photo by Julie Bloom.]