East Meets West: Home is Where the Steens Would Really Like to Be
This column is dedicated to Christine and Jer, who gave me a home and family in more ways than I Can say…
My parents went from their first apartment together to living in the home that they still live in today. Home. Extremely stable would be a gross understatement to describe my habitation situation growing up. The creek of the stairs (which was an Indiana Jones type feat to avoid when coming home late as a teen) being able to predict almost to the week when the crocus will bloom- these factors remain unchanged.
Lord love a duck, I don’t want to say that I “paid” for my consistent home, but I certainly had to learn A LOT of lessons before I was able to have that kind of stability in my own space.
Vancouver is embedded in a housing crisis, sadly, my story isn’t terribly unique. Doesn’t make it any easier though. In four years, I lived in eight places and it messed with me. A lot. Finding a place, packing, moving, settling in, rinse, repeat; this became my routine and fostered situational depression in me.
Renovation is like the Boogie Man around Vancouver, never knowing where or whom it’ll strike next, but the fear is real.
The BC Tenancy Act requires two months’ notice, with the final month of habitation not requiring rent payment. Alternatively, there’s the option to take a buy out: instead of living rent-free for the final month you’ll get paid out. My former roommate took this option and didn’t tell me.
I found out on April 26 that I had to be out for May 1. The anger and frustration in the pit of my stomach have dissipated now when I think about it. I wish her grace and patient and supportive people when she’s met with a similar situation. Not if, when. I know see it as a grand lesson that I got to learn, a carefully concealed gift. I sure as fuck didn’t then.
Not fifteen minutes after I had thrown up a frantic Facebook status asking for help in scoping for a place, any place as I was homeless, my amazing friend Christine called me up. “Dude, what happened? Come stay with Jer and me.”
Are you fucking kidding me? “Chris, are you fucking kidding me? Are you sure?” I asked; and they were. That’s how good these people are. They opened their heart and home to me. And for the next two and a half months I lived with them and became family. I allowed myself to be taken care of, and be accountable in this new dynamic. I blew bubbles with Chris’ four-year-old and for the first time in years, spent time around a child.
I navigated living with one of the weirdest cats of all time (I don’t say that lightly), Morris (whose nickname is Hunger Cat Shit Paws) takes Hangry to an alarming new level. I still have a key. I’m still always welcome. That familial support hasn’t diminished only bloomed brightened, with more and more laughter. I’m pretty good at giving love and support, allowing others to do the same for me after being self-reliant for so long through some pretty extreme emotional experiences doesn’t come naturally. Living with these people was the lesson I had to learn, that I got to learn. Knowing something logically versus emotionally are two different rodeos, my friends
Personal growth is fine but I wasn’t any freaking closer to finding a new home. Obsessively, I would check Craigslist dozens of times a day. I was on various housing collective groups on Facebook. Hell, I was even walking around neighborhoods I liked in hopes of seeing “For Rent” signs. The grind was exhausting. I applied like crazy. I was perfecting the art of the succinct yet personable, desirable and unique blurb about myself to set me apart from the other poor desperate saps in my shoes.
Apartment hunting is akin to dating. You go in with the best intentions, you shower and don’t overdress, and sometimes you get miserably disappointed or your heart broken. I think I went to sixteen dates…I mean viewings. The competition was hideous, like sharks circling for chum.
I was runner-up so many times, receiving emails from people saying things like “How do you begin to choose? We ended up just pulling a name out of a hat”- cowards.
Alternatively “We ended up giving it to an Ontario girl who was homeless”- what the hell did that make me?
Onward. I meditated and looked for signs, asked the universe specifically for what I wanted. I got more and more vocal about talking to everyone and anyone as a means to discover my home. I worked really hard to not let the last of my hope dwindle away. Because it was. I had to believe the tide would turn; it always does…
And it did; my former masseuse’s friend’s friend’s friend might have had a place “Let me get in touch with him! Here, leave me your number. I can’t make any promises, but you never know, right?”
The next day I got a call from an unknown number and had a chat with a lovely, kind man, jotted down the details about the apartment that he still had available (!!) and we arranged a time to meet. I looked down on the paper to Google the address; I didn’t realize but written in the top corner was the word “magic”…
It was perfect- the location, the price, the lovely kind man, his sweet dog, the park across the street with the pink piano which someone was playing “Heart and Soul” Magic. “I would adore living here if you’d let me,” I said.
48 hours later I found out the place was mine; a week after Bass Coast, on a beautifully sunny July day, with the help of friends (friends who help you move really are special friends): I was home.