Yesterday was a very nice day. Last month I emailed you all about buying an apartment — about the emotional need that drove that decision. Not too many days after I composed that newsletter, we closed on the place, and spent the next few weeks frantically painting, assembling furniture, packing, and handling the logistics of moving. Today marks a week since we officially moved in, and yesterday we had a few friends over to celebrate. It wasn’t a full housewarming party (we’ll get around to that eventually, maybe), but we had coffee and donuts and bagels, and then my friends took it upon themselves to organize and alphabetize our bookshelves, and we watched a movie and ate pizza, and it was pretty lovely.
This apartment is great. Spacious and sunny and beautiful — and we’re the ones who made it that way. The living room is a soothing shade of pale blue, with a darker accent wall; Rachel’s room is a deep shade of blue-ish green that feels like taking a nap, and my room…
My room is bright yellow.
With turquoise curtains.
It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I agonized over that decision. This is the first place I’ve owned, and a huge step up on just about every level. I really wanted it to feel like somewhere grown-ups live. Refined and mature and classy. We have plants on the windows and paintings on the walls and it all comes together nicely. The only element that doesn’t mesh is the so-bright-it-glows yellow of my bedroom.
My childhood bedroom was also bright yellow. That was a bit more neon, somehow even brighter, but as a kid I was brighter and louder, too. I was confident and social and an outspoken weirdo, but I never questioned who I was or what I liked. But at some point over the years I think my yellow faded.
I don’t want to over-dramatize it. I’m still pretty confident. I’m outspoken when I feel like I need to be. But I’m much quieter, much more introverted, and about a thousand times more self-conscious. For years I worried about what I wore, for example. I stuck to a jeans-t-shirt-hoodie combo not just because it was comfortable, but because I felt like it couldn’t go wrong. I was terrified of trying anything else, because what if what I liked was actually tacky? What if, in my attempts to develop a personal style, I actually just make myself look ridiculous and people are secretly laughing at me and I’m soooo proud of what I’m wearing but —
Wow, I gave myself a little anxiety attack there.
I know that sort of fear started around college, and I suspect it’s a little bit of a class thing. My childhood was warm, friendly, and messy; it was also very rural. My family was a rarity, in that my parents both had college degrees. I wouldn’t necessarily say we were poor or broke (though I found out years later that my parents had a ton of credit card debt for a very long time), but I never realized how close we were to that end of the scale until I went to a ludicrously expensive liberal arts college. My experience was n o t h i n g like most of my classmates’. The way they dressed, talked, ate, went about their daily lives — I don’t know that I can describe it, but the lives they took for granted were very, very different than mine, and I became hyper-aware of all of those differences.
A few years after that, when I learned about the concept of privilege, I finally had the vocabulary to describe it. My well-off classmates moved through the world with an ease I lacked, and took for granted a lot of things I never could. They didn’t check their bank balances before going out to dinner; they bought new clothes whenever they saw something they liked; they flew home for every break, or brought their cars to campus. They expected the world to work a certain way, and it did, because they had the money to make it happen, and they often didn’t even realize that’s what they were buying.
Again, that all sounds very dramatic. It wasn’t really. I didn’t even notice at the time how much more I questioned myself and wondered what everyone else thought. (And god knows that kind of anxiety happens among people with a lot more financial privilege than I have; mental health can suck across the board.) But for the first time I was hyper-aware of everything I didn’t have. It felt like there were rules I didn’t know that everyone who had more privilege unthinkingly lived by, and suddenly anything related to how I presented myself, whether or not I fit in, was incredibly fraught.
It’s been a long time since then. I’d like to think I’ve slowly grown back in to myself; that now I’m quiet, not awkward. Introverted, not anxious. But it still hits me sometimes. I’ll have a moment of knowing what I want, who I am, but I’ll pull back because of the fear of what other people will think.
After I picked out my color combination, I fretted for days. Even as we were painting. What if the yellow was too much? What if my planned turquoise accents didn’t go? What if everyone else who saw it thought it was ridiculous, and tacky, and rolled their eyes because psh, what was I doing, thinking I could just pick out colors I liked and not have them be too much and too weird and too bright?
But here’s the thing: my room is not to everyone’s taste. It probably is too bright for plenty of people. But they don’t have to live there.
It’s mine, and I love it.