It was February 2012, and I was finally moving out of my parent’s house. Four months prior, I had moved back home to Austin, Texas after the end of an explosive relationship for which I’d moved cross-country (honestly, I was also looking for a geographic cure after a fairly unproductive first year of post-Harvard living in Los Angeles). After living in a teeny tiny apartment in Los Angeles, then bouncing from one place to the next in the DC area, and finally going back to my childhood bedroom, I was looking forward to moving out on my own again.
I searched high and low until I found an apartment in my price range, and in a great area of the city. I had signed the lease without seeing the exact unit I would be living in, and once I was able to view my actual future apartment, I realized to my dismay that the spacious living room only got morning sun. In the afternoon, the living room got some light but was pretty dark. The bedroom, on the other hand, was sun-drenched from 11 am until sunset. In short, the sunlight in the apartment was backwards, at least in my opinion. Great sun is one of the most important things to me in a living and working space, so a dark living room just was not going to work for me. But it had to work for me because I had signed a lease.
One of the first thoughts I had was: Solving this problem is easy! Put your bed in the living room and use the bedroom as your office.
I took the floorplan the property manager had given me and started thinking of places in the living room where I could put my bed. The only place I could think of for the bed was in the dining room, but a bed right by the entrance to the kitchen seemed dangerous and clunky.
I mentioned my idea of putting the bed in the living room to one or two people close to me, and their immediate reaction was, “Your bed in the living room? That’s weird…” or “People are going to walk right in and see your bed? Okay…” and that was all it took to shut me up and put me back in line.
I put my bed in the bedroom where it “belonged,” I tucked my desk into a corner of the living room, and for a whole year, I tolerated my dark, backwards-sunlight apartment. On the days I worked from home rather than my favorite coffee shop, I felt like I was in a dark cave, and my bright bedroom constantly beckoned me for a sunny nap or to read in my bed. Instead of being an oasis, my apartment felt like a cell bent on sabotaging my creativity.
I couldn’t wait for my lease to be up. However, when I got the renewal notice, I felt the urge not to move but to stay. I hadn’t lived in an apartment for two consecutive years since I was in graduate school, and that little taste of the settled life had felt great.
But you don’t want to sign up for another year of the sad, dark apartment, I argued with myself.
But I don’t want to move again. This location is great, the rent can’t be beat, I like my neighbors, and the spacious patio is just so great! I argued back.
Do your best to make this apartment work for you is the final argument I gave myself, and I signed another year-long lease. I promised myself that I would do my best to decorate the apartment (I hadn’t really done much of that) and make it really work for me.
While talking with my bestie JJ about my decision to stay in the apartment for another year, I casually mentioned, “When I first moved in, I wanted to move the bed into the living room and use the bedroom as my office since it’s so sunny,” and JJ immediately responded, “I love that idea. I know just where you should put it.” And then he proceeded to rearrange my entire apartment from memory (JJ spent a lot of time over here having cook-offs and watching Asian psychological thrillers before he moved to Seattle).
I was so encouraged after our conversation that I immediately started moving furniture around. I didn’t take all of JJ’s suggestions, but I did take the biggest one, which was to put my bed in the living room where my desk used to be. I spent the next two hours turning my spacious living room into a studio apartment and my sun-drenched bedroom into my writing room and dispatch center for sending out all my books.
This is how things looked after two hours (first photo is my bed now in a corner of my living room and the second photo is my new writing room):
My apartment has been like this for two days now and I love it! I wake up each morning before sunrise and get to watch as the sun fills the space, and then I do my morning routine and settle down in my writing room, surrounded by my books and all the other goodies I’ll be sending out to early book buyers soon.
When I posted the photos on Facebook, I was astounded at the enthusiastic and positive feedback. No, my Facebook friends don’t have to live in my beloved, backwards, sunlight-correct apartment, but it was nice to see that some people appreciated my weird idea.
I got so inspired to continue making my apartment more me that I decided to get rid of my dining room set (which I inherited from my parent’s storage and never loved) and create a Thai/Japanese/Indian/Middle Eastern (not all combined, just trying to be inclusive) style dining area and use my long coffee table plus some beautiful floor cushions to eat while seated on the floor. I’m still working on the setup, but I think it’s going to be great.
Looking back, I realize that I wasted a whole YEAR of being dissatisfied with where and how I lived and worked. I was waiting for permission to do something that I already wanted to do. The crazy thing is that trying it out wouldn’t have hurt anyone, but I was held back by my own doubt that it would work.
My weird idea turned out to be just what I needed to love the apartment that I already have. There are so many other strange, unsure things I’d like to try: teaching live workshops here in Austin when I don’t actually know that many entrepreneurs here, hosting beach days where I coach a group of people through an issue while sitting on the beach, walking coaching where I coach individuals on business issues while hiking, idea jams where a group of entrepreneurs come to me with problems they have and I rattle off ideas they can run with. A lot of them I haven’t tried yet, because they just seem so, well, weird.
But this experience has shown me that my weird ideas might just be the best ones, and the longer I wait for permission, the longer I keep whatever cool things might come of it away from me.
So in case you were waiting on it, here’s your permission to do something weird. You’ll probably be very glad you did.