My three month sabbatical in California came to an end yesterday. This morning I returned to my apartment in Brooklyn. Everything was the same, and yet different. My apartment had the lingering smell of someone else and an air freshener scent I never would have chosen to use in my home. Furniture had been shifted ever so slightly in every room. Little odds and ends had been left, quarters and pens that had fallen out of pants pockets, a book that got pushed under the dresser, the kitchen had olive oil, corn tortillas, and some random jars. The subletter, despite rave reviews about his plant tending from the previous person he sublet from, had let my bamboo plant and terrarium turn shriveled and brown. And while the place was nowhere near dirty, every surface was in need of dusting.
As I walked through the quiet early morning streets of my neighborhood to get a bagel and some basic groceries to tide me over for the day I felt the same dread and disdain I had felt upon leaving three months prior. Distance had not made my heart grow fonder. Had I ever really loved the neighborhood when I moved in four years ago? Or was it just conveniently located near people in my life at the time and still reasonably priced? I found myself, once again, missing my little studio on the Upper East Side, conveniently nestled between Central Park and Carl Schurz Park.
After a nap (when will I learn that I cannot sleep on planes, not even red eyes?), I opened the front closet where I had stored all of the stuff I chose to leave in my apartment but did not want to leave out for a random stranger, otherwise known as a subletter, to riffle through. It was time to make my home feel like mine again by placing pictures of family and friends back in their designated places, putting my clothes back into the bedroom closet and dresser, and arranging my toiletries in the bathroom. For what felt like the millionth time in several months, I began asking myself what to keep and what to get rid of. Literally and metaphorically. So much of the work I have been doing recently has revolved around peeling back the layers and letting go of what I no longer need. I had hoped my time away would bring greater clarity to the questions that began arising as the layers continued peeling away…instead, I was left with even more questions.