Saying Goodbye to My First Home and Welcoming Homes Yet to Come

One writer's journey to putting down roots post college

Aleenah Ansari

Where’s home for you? Is it an apartment, a soft place to land or somewhere where you feel wholly loved, wrapped in the comfort of knowing that you’re safe there? In college, the apartments where I lived were all of this and more. Usually, these apartments consisted of a handful of roommates and me with a small common area and bedrooms where I could barely open the door without hitting my chest of drawers or desk table, the two or three pieces of furniture I owned.

Just because the spaces where I lived were small didn’t mean they weren’t full of love, though. My friends and I were always playing music videos or games, planning our next nacho night and pretending to do homework when we were actually staying up late talking about who we had a crush on that week.

I made a big shift during my final year of college when I bought a condo with the help of my family. The noisiness of college quieted around me as I had a space fully to myself for the first time in my life. Somehow, 1,000 square feet felt like way too much room for one person, considering I went from living in a room that was previously a closet to having multiple in my home. I furnished the space with a combination of hand-me-down furniture from family members, my college desk (my bed frame and chest of drawers were too broken to survive the move) and a few new things like a bed frame and an espresso machine.

Photo wall
The author's photo wall from college.

I didn’t spend much time in my new condo during the first year. I was transitioning from being a full-time student with three jobs to working full-time in tech. Usually, I was running between working at the writing center and doing early morning interviews to going to late-night classes and making boba runs with friends. My home and I felt like passing ships, and while I was grateful for the shelter, I didn’t see it as much more than that.

In March 2020, my organization pivoted to full remote work, which meant I was spending a lot more time in my home. I started to buy prints on Etsy and slowly amassed a collection of art prints by BIPOC artists. This little corner of my home inspired me every day, making me feel less alone in a time of Zoom birthday parties and goodbyes as friends moved away for medical school or new jobs. Slowly, my partner and I started curating furniture that brought us joy, starting with our beloved gray couch from Costco. It became the place where we’d catch up on favorite television shows and, once the lockdowns eased up, where we’d host friends for dinner and play board games. We created collages of photos and postcards from our adventures together and slowly built up a collection of queer love stories, memoirs and fiction books, and I even got to interview some of the authors I had been reading for years.

Growing collection of queer romance books
The author's growing collection of queer romance books.

I’ve never had a dream house, just an imperfect home that I’ve loved unconditionally because it has served as a gateway to the world. Where else can you get to your alma mater, grandma’s house, concert venues, favorite bookstores and the airport with relative ease? I loved all the moments in between, even when I only got sunlight in the morning and had to race across the drawbridge next to my home to ensure I’d catch the bus on time?

Sometimes I feel like I became the person I am today while living in the apartment where I spent my early 30s. I lived in this home when I graduated college, started my full-time job, discovered freelance writing and turned it into a business, won awards, put up the first of many art walls, got engaged, planned a wedding and jetted around and returned to it after my first press visits. I filled my place with art and knickknacks from my favorite places like the little houses from Amsterdam and Germany and the disco lamp that greeted me with morning sparkles on a bright day.

Recently, I moved to a new place, and to say that leaving this condo felt like a form of heartbreak is an understatement.

In hindsight, it’s the end of an era but not the end of having a home that I love. I’ve learned that I can find home in any place where I feel like the best version of myself. It’s somewhere where I can invite my chosen family, make memories and write stories that would make my 8-year-old self feel seen and proud.