Sunday, July 20, 2014

Compare and Contrast: July 15, 2013 vs. July 15, 2014 in St. Louis

Do you remember where you were a year ago today?

A few days ago, I was struck by the contrast of July 15th, 2013 with July 15th of 2014.

Last year, everything seemed to hit the fan at the same time.
I was sitting on the back patio at MediaCross and received a call from my landlord.
Earlier that day, I'd called to tell him there was mold in my apartment and could he relocate me into another unit while the problem was addressed.

This was a proactive step for me and very unlike my first dire thought: that the situation was unsolvable.
The call was not the rosy one my friends and family had encouraged me to hope for.

Explaining there was mold and that was why I was calling, he challenged with, "Where's the mold.  Where? Where is it?"  He cut me off, crescendo-ed, and then declared, "All the apartments have mold!"


Years before, I had asked, and he told me it was coal dust coming through the plaster. This year it spread more than it ever had. After it appeared in every room from floor to ceiling following the air ducts, I thought he was either wrong or lying.

This declaration told all: lying.

This was upsetting, indeed, but instead of losing composure, I proceeded to sit and listen to my landlord break up with me.  By that I mean, he used all the language of a typical breakup.

"I think we just want different things."

"I don't think I can provide the standard of living you want."

"We've had a lot of problems, none of them were your fault, but I am ready to have us part ways."

I did want different things.
I desired my car to not be towed by my inebriated neighbors...again.
I wanted my oven to work during all months of the year, including November and December.
I did not want my dishwasher and sink to require bailing with a bucket after a rain.
Lastly, I wanted mold to not be growing up every wall in the house impacting the air quality.

"This is the best for each of us."

But this impacted everything. First of all, it meant the death of a dream.
My whole childhood I dreamed to live in Tower Grove.  It's the only dream I remember articulating, beside saying that I wanted to marry with Elvis. (This was an ill-fated desire.)
I had to let go of living near the Botanical Gardens, the park and my daily walk to the library.

Also, I had to put my cat into a emergency care because of his panting and labored breathing.  (This behavior was what caused me to challenge the coal dust explanation in the first place.)

Then, I held a garage sale to purge belongings and was helped by very loving and attentive friends.
Finally and frantically, I moved furniture into friends' homes and moved myself into my parents'.

I continued interning at MediaCross and started preparing for a new school year.

I found a new apartment, moved everything in and then found...more mold.

By August, I had moved 3 times, and then needed to move all of my school materials, files, filing cabinet, etc to a new classroom before the first day of school. By August 15th, I had picked up and moved every object I own in the world at least once.

It was too much. I was buckling under the stress and strain. My life felt fragmented, working in the city and sleeping and commuting from Illinois.  I had a wonderful network of family and friends around me, but they were bewildered as to how to help. One friend confessed it felt like watching a multi-car pileup as it was happening.  You want to help, but how?
It felt just like that.

I won't go through the whole domino effect. Use your imagination and fast-forward one year. (Don't forget to add in being rear ended.) I recommend picturing a montage; it goes faster that way.

On the other side of that series of unfortunate events, I can breathe.

Also I can take pictures of my feet, which is a growing symbol for free time.

To my knowledge, I haven't taken for granted having a safe, warm, dry, apartment that would pass health inspections.
I cherish that I am healthy and that Captain is too.

I'm glad to know I have solid relationships and networks of people who want to pitch in even when they don't know where to begin, and there is the likelihood of an explosion or two.

I'm so glad to know that after bouts of stress, unknowns, and lack of direction, the mind can re-awaken:

to beauty,
Credit: Julie Johnson

to humor,
to laughter and playfulness, 
IMG_0014 2014untitled-2.JPG
Credit: Photomaton

and to serving others.

Credit: Gretchen Borzillo
I'm glad I have a second chance at MediaCross, one where I haven't shed tears over housing or anything else. I've just been cheerfully productive!

Mostly, I'm glad that I can wake up to my life everyday.  As unknown as some of the pieces are, as different as it is from what I anticipated it would be, I'm glad call it mine.

Credit: Natalie Waymack