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Lease Renewal Blues

This week, we received under our front door a lease renewal offer from our landlord.  While Girlfriend and I haven’t discussed it at any length, I think we’re both equally depressed about the fact that we’re not able to just simply sign the agreement and slip it back under his door.

We’re moving to Oregon in July, after all, and the agreement on the renewal is for the next year:  far longer than we plan to stay.  We’re going to have to call him and break the bad news, as much as we’ve enjoyed being his tenants.  Plus – as though our shared temptation to stay in Chicago weren’t already palpable with the prospect of leaving behind good friends, steady jobs, and a city that’s been home to each of us for most of our adult lives –  the landlord is willing to keep us as tenants with no increase in rent.  (I know, given the real estate crisis and the lapsed economy, it would be unreasonable for our rent to go up, but I’ve still never lived in an apartment that didn’t get significantly more expensive with each new lease.  It’s making the stress of moving much more difficult to cope with.)

This place has been better to me than any I’ve had before.  While Girlfriend’s decorating is probably largely to credit for this fact, I’ve never felt as at home in an apartment as I do here.  The size, the layout, the copious natural light in the spring and fall, shaded in the summer by the beautiful trees outside our living room…it’s so ideal for our needs at such a reasonable [north-side Chicago] price that I’m afraid our standards might be unrealistically high when we go apartment hunting in Portland.

The concept of “home” is an interesting one.  A common topic of conversation among me and my fellow transplant friends is whether or not Chicago has become “home” to us.  I don’t know if I truly felt at home in this city until I’d lived alone for a couple of years in the same building…even then, though, I’m not sure the apartment itself felt like much more than a place to store my stuff and lay my head.

“Home” is something more than that, though I can’t pinpoint what, exactly.  In practice, it’s the difference between the sort of sleep I get in the bed Girlfriend and I currently share and the sort of sleep I’ve gotten in the several other beds I’ve had over my last nine years as a Chicagoan; it’s the difference between the way I used to be oblivious to the mess in previous apartments and how I now apologize to guests for even tiny amounts of clutter in this one; it’s the way I used to pile newly acquired junk wherever I had empty floor space, and now try to plan where something will fit best in the overall “look and feel” of the apartment before I even buy it.

I used to get stir-crazy (and I mean stir-crazy) when I stayed cooped up in my apartment all day.  I’d get paranoid and angry, and I’d be awkward around the first people I saw after my isolation, like I’d been out in the wild for months and turned feral.  Now, staying home for a day has more of a restorative effect.  It’s just recently become something I look forward to.  Maybe this has something to do with my newfound motivation to better myself (rather than to spend a day off playing video games and eating Doritos), or maybe it’s just part of continuing to grow up, but I can’t help but think that the apartment has had something to do with it.

So, I guess this entry has nothing to do with finances apart from the fact that paying the same rent for another year is almost sufficient motivation to make me want to put off our move…though not quite enough.  But getting the lease renewal has certainly triggered some preemptive mourning for the loss of an apartment that has so far been the backdrop to 15 of the best months of my life.  While I hope to remember it fondly after we go, I hope even more that we’re able to find something comparably great when we get there.  Maybe (final sappy thought) Girlfriend and I can be this happy wherever we end up because the reason this home feels so “home”y is the fact that Girlfriend and I are here together?

Ugh.  Sorry.  I’ll stop writing until I have this sentimentality under control.  (Expect, as compensation, dry phrases like “brokerage firm” and “reinvestment of dividends” to appear in tomorrow’s entry.  Oh, and numbers.  Lots of numbers.)

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