When I Look Back, It Wasn’t So Bad, Really
by Philip Whitman
Where have you lived, Philip Whitman?
August 2004–May 2005, Jefferson Park Ave, Charlottesville, VA, $340/mo.
After graduating from college (during which, if one includes summers, I lived in no fewer than seven campus locations), I decided that remaining in a relatively interesting college town was preferable to moving back to an utterly boring hometown. A friend and I checked out a couple apartments and chose this one, a decent two-bedroom near our remaining college friends and…not terribly close to either of our jobs. On the plus side, the living room had a brick wall perfect for chalk drawings, and a desk-like setup in the hallway was great for liquor storage. Worst part was being penalized on the security deposit for overstaying our lease by like 10 minutes. Jerks.
May 2005–May 2006, Price Ave, Charlottesville, VA, $360/mo.
The same friend and I picked up a couple additional roommates and rented a house for a year. Since my default mode is “hermit,” more people was good for fostering social interaction. Of course, this included less-enjoyable interactions such as dividing up the bills and factoring in who owed more on the electric bill for using an air conditioner or produced more waste and had to buy city garbage stickers, and why we were short on the rent again. Overall, such matters were a small part of life, though, and I liked my time there. Outcome on the security deposit was even worse this time, and come to think of it, we never received an invoice. The least they could have done was use that money to cut down the tree I kept walking into, but photographic evidence indicates otherwise.
May 2006–May 2008, Ivy Dr, Charlottesville, VA, $750/mo.
Having spent a couple years with roommates, I decided to try living on my own and got my own apartment. More than doubling my rent necessitated some changes, so I bid farewell to cable and made do with the two or three channels I could pick up with an antenna. I also made the long-overdue decision to stop buying so many meals and cook whenever possible, with mixed results (screwing up Hamburger Helper is easier than you might think). This state of affairs was all right, even if it meant learning more about the upstairs couple’s sex life that I wanted. However, after two years I realized that I could have saved some money in rent had I resisted the nostalgic desire to live close to a school I no longer attended. I toyed with the idea of moving home or at least finding a cheaper place, before choosing a third option.
May 2008–March 2009, Victor Ln, Poughkeepsie, NY, $360/mo.
Yes, when one has a boring job and living arrangements, the solution is to move to a mid-sized town in New York’s Hudson Valley, right? Clearly, there was an air of randomness to this decision, yet this change of scenery worked out pretty well for me. I moved into an extra room in a house populated by one of my previous roommates, his girlfriend, and six other people. Three of them left in short order, which still left the nucleus of a great potential sitcom in place, or at least a mid-season replacement (On next week’s episode, find out why the house’s garbage containers were repossessed!). Anyway, after six weeks of Mario Kart and the occasional job interview, I finally found employment and proceeded to have a enjoyable time, not including time spent shoveling snow off the massive paved hill one could generously call a “driveway.” Once the lease was up, though, it was time to move again.
March 2009–August 2010, N Clinton St, Poughkeepsie, NY, $345/mo.
Three of us from the previous house ended up in this…duplex, I suppose? It appeared to have one been a single house at some point in its history, but our portion consisted of the second floor and attic. This was the only place I have ever lived where I definitely heard gunshots in the general vicinity, followed shortly thereafter by sirens. So yeah, locking the door was important. I viewed the glass as half full, though, since the house went into foreclosure shortly after we moved in, leaving us no one to whom we could pay rent for more than six months. In the meantime, I used some of the money I was saving for a down payment on a car to replace my aging model. As for the house itself, it was an aging, slightly-cramped structure without central air, so it had its faults. But when I look back, it wasn’t so bad, really.
August 2010–January 2013, Washington Ave, Saugerties, NY, $680/mo.
Eventually, it was time to move yet again, so my cat and I ended up in a finished basement in a sleepy town that cut back on my commute. The primary appeal of this place was that the rent was affordable and utilities were included, at the cost of being partially underground. The Craigslist ad described the apartment as “airy,” though depending on how much sunlight made it through the windows on a given day, it could also be dreary. Also, I was perfectly situated so I could hear the mother upstairs yell at her children when they misbehaved. And to top it off, when Hurricane Irene barreled though, I found myself facing flooding that forced me to crash at a neighbor’s house for a day. But it wasn’t all negatives! I liked the neighborhood, managed to keep things looking pretty nice, and it was even one of the few places where I brought a girl home (which I’m sure is of the utmost interest to every reader). I might still be living there now if not for a few reasons.
January 2013–present, Windsor Great Park, Newport News, VA, $0/mo.
The chief reason was that my job was no so enjoyable anymore. Against my better judgement, instead of looking for a better one I instead gave into my parents’ complaints and chose to move closer to home. And how much closer to home could I get than literally the house in which I grew up? The living situation isn’t bad for a bland subdivision; on the other hand, the job market is scarce. I have yet to secure employment that pays enough for me to move out, and even if I do, I’m not enthused by the idea of actually spending money for the privilege of living in this town. So, as worn out as the phrase may be, it’s fundamentally true that you can’t go home again. We’ll see how long this lasts, but I’d wager that there are a few more entries destined for this list.
Philip Whitman lives in Virginia.