Miserable & Magical: The walls are closing in

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I don’t know if it’s because of COVID-19 or because I’m getting older, but I am very much over apartment life. Being cooped up in 600 square feet is tough, but lately, it’s been getting worse and worse. 

I live on the first floor and in addition to hearing people talk as they walk by on the sidewalk, I have the added fun of being startled every time one of my neighbors walks a foot from my window. Strangers’ voices and cigarette smoke frequently find their way inside my home. 

The biggest transgression, though, occurred last weekend. [Name Redacted] and I were watching “Hoarders” (as one does when they need to feel better about their own life) when the sound of shrieking children came from the hallway. We already knew our neighbor across the hall was celebrating her birthday and we figured she had a few family members over.

At about 9:30 p.m. we finally decided to peek our heads out, hoping to ask the parents to wrangle their kids a little bit. As our door swung open, 10 or so small faces turned to look at us. There was not a single adult to be found and the children were all 5 or 6 years old. I sighed. This seemed to be the type of party where the parents drank outside while their kids entertained themselves at the expense of everyone else in the building.

“Are we disturbing you?” one girl asked in the sweetest of sweet voices and as much as I wanted to tell her that yes, they very much were, I couldn’t. She melted my heart and all I could ask was that they try to be quieter. And they were. For about five minutes. 

I wish I could tell you that the adults outside showed some common decency and wrapped their party up shortly after. But if that were the case, this really wouldn’t be a story worth telling. 

At 12:30 a.m. [Name Redacted] and I tossed and turned as music bumped outside our window and children stomped their feet down our hall, still screaming as loud as they could. Being non-confrontational, I stayed in bed as [Name Redacted] went outside to tell our neighbors that the noise had gone on too long. I expected him to return saying there’d been only a handful of adults out there, you know because of COVID-19 and the fact that we live in a small building with scant outdoor space. 

When [Name Redacted] told me there were actually about 30 people, I was shocked. You can’t host a party that large right now. I shouldn’t have to say that. Anyway, they quieted down and rounded up the kids pretty much immediately. Unfortunately, there was more than one empty beer can in the parking lot the next day. 

All of this has been making me want to escape into the woods and buy a home in the middle of nowhere. It’s strange considering I’ve been feeling so lonely lately, but I really don’t want to live so close to other people anymore. I just need more space. I want to sit by my window and know that no one will walk by. I don’t want to hear other people talking (or screaming) on the other side of my walls. 

It’s interesting that I want so badly to go live in the woods because that’s how I grew up. And since leaving rural New Hampshire, I’ve just wanted to be in the city. I even wanted to move to New York for a stretch. Maybe COVID-19 is making me seek out the comfort of home. 

But I don’t think this feeling is temporary. Being out in the woods (or in green space in general) or near the water has always made me feel happier and more creative, and lately, that’s been magnified for me. I feel like myself out there. I think I may be losing myself in my apartment.

It’s hard for me to think straight when I’m stuck inside. I feel more anxious and I struggle to get things done. When I’m outside, I’m free and happy and anxiety gives way to excitement and hope.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be moving anytime soon. I can look at Zillow all I want (and trust me, I do), but a house isn’t really in my budget. In the meantime, I’ll keep getting outside as much as I can, going to the lakes, the beach, nature trails, and parks – and keep reminding myself that all of this is temporary (COVID-19 and apartment life). 

Kate Gardner is a Portland-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, SELF, and Bustle. You can follow her on Twitter @katevgardner.