introducing: cayce’s new apartment

Meet my bff Cayce, guys:

We weirdly have almost no pictures together where we’re not making super dumb faces, so here are some dumb faces. I think we were trying to take a nice picture but then she started spraying me with a my plant spritzer because she’s the worst. We’ve  pretty much reached the stage in our friendship where we’re only not dicks to each other on special occasions.

Right now Cayce and I are sorta-neighbors. According to Google maps, her place is exactly .8 miles away from mine, which it turns out is the most obnoxious distance ever. It’s way too close to justify taking an Uber, but it’s just far enough that walking feels like a chore unless the weather is perfect. (Also the walk is super boring for the first 2/3, then super ugly and concrete-y for the rest and I HATE IT.) Additionally, even though we’re technically in the same neighborhood, but her part of it suuuuuuuucks.

Here’s some of  the stuff that’s within a few blocks of my place:

  • cute bars (plus one grimy 4 am bar for all your self-sabotage needs)
  • an amazing little used bookstore
  • fab neighborhood grocery store
  • a gorgeous beach park that puts all other Chicago beaches to shame
  • an independent movie theater that serves themed cocktails
  • a satanist temple
  • SO many restaurants
  • an adorable little flower shop
  • hardly any gang shootings at all (because we’re near a private college campus and wealthy white college kids are one of the few groups the CPD gives a shit about)

and, most importantly:

  • a subway stop, so you can get around without having to deal with a car

Here’s what’s around Cayce’s place:

  • mini strip malls
  • dollar stores
  • liquor stores
  • boarded up car repair shops
  • a McDonalds
  • definitely a non-negligible amount of gang shootings
  • absolutely horrific parking, and no convenient subway stop

This is the view from her corner:

So inspiring.

It’s not 100% bad–her apartment is on the same block as her work and there are tons of delicious mexican restaurants–but there’s literally nothing fun to do within easy walking distance and all normal adult life stuff (bank, grocery shopping, drugstore etc) requires driving. So it’s like 98% bad. (Also living on the same block as your work sounds really good until you realize that it just kind of feels like you have never really left work.)

I’m pretty sure that a lot of people underestimate the effect their environment has on them, and especially the effect that micro-stresses have. Walking out of your door every day to the sight of a traffic jam and endless concrete isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened to a person, but I feel like over time your brain starts to hate it and begins whispering things to you,  like “it’s bad out there, just stay inside!”  If doing pretty much anything requires driving somewhere, and the parking situation requires that you get back home by 4:30 pm, it’s pretty easy to just slowly stop doing things. If there’s no convenient way to get groceries, it’s scarily easy to get into the habit of throwing all your money away on garbage food delivery. I’m sure that this will all sound insane to a person who lives in the suburbs and drives everywhere as a matter of course, but they probably have the benefit of a big living space, a yard, nights uninterrupted by sirens or gunshots or screaming drunk people, and a place to park their car without having to constantly worry about it getting towed because all of the parking signs look like this. So that probably evens out. (Honestly though, since age 19 I’ve only spent like a year living in a place where I had to have a car and it made me absolutely crazy.)

So there are some of my feelings about Cayce’s location. Here are some things about Cayce’s Troubles:

To summarize very briefly, Cayce’s been having a pretty rough time lately. We met many many years ago when we were both going to the same doctors for some suboptimal mental health stuff, and we’ve each totally had our ups and downs since then. Cayce’s definitely been in a “down” period for a while now–nothing particularly emergent, just that persistent sneaky shitty feeling that everything in your life is terrible but it’s impossible to change it because you’re a total piece of shit. (Cayce, if you’re reading this, that is totally not true btw.) “Doing laundry” stops being just doing laundry, and becomes “get all your dirty clothes together. find a hamper. find quarters. find detergent. there are too many clothes for your hamper. find a big ikea bag. find more quarters. unlock the front door. drag your shit down the hallway.  now drag it down the stairs. it’s so heavy. drag it down the hallway to the spooky laundry room. oh god there’s someone in there, what if they want to talk? your hair is greasy and the only clean shirt you could find makes you look so fat. your neighbor who you’ve spoken to one time in four years is going to know what a huge pile of human garbage you are. abort mission. drag everything back upstairs and shove it in your closet. order a pizza because anything other than eating greasy food that someone brought to your door is literally impossible right now.”

So, you know, when you’re feeling like that, things kind of get away from you. Your laundry situation turns into something it would be nearly impossible for even a totally functional person to do.  Dishes pile up and you can’t even look at the kitchen anymore. Work feels oppressive and unmanageable, but when you look around at all the other shit you’ve failed to take care of, the idea of going through a job hunt seems about as possible as figuring out cold fusion. Everything that used to just feel like a nightmare becomes an actual nightmare and burning down your life and starting over in some other city is the only thing that might fix it.

Cayce was already formulating plans to do that last thing and move somewhere weird. “I should move to Oregon because maybe I really like hiking and just don’t know it yet”-type stuff. (Dude, you like pizza and Romanian soap operas, not hiking.) And besides the fact that moving definitely wouldn’t fix anything, I started to get nervous just for myself because Cayce is my bff and not having her around would be mega shitty. So I decided that some serious action was needed. I proposed that maybe instead of moving across the country, she could just move like a mile, into a better apartment where there were trees and grocery stores and possibly a movie theater, and zero boarded up muffler shops. Moving for her has been tricky logistically because she’s on a September lease cycle and 90% of the units around here come up for rent in May and June, but things had reached the point where the financial hit felt like it might actually be worth it if it meant she could just close this crappy dollar store studio apartment period of her life.

She was only about 75% on board with this plan (because money, and also moving is horrible, and making a change is scary) so on a Friday afternoon three weeks ago I put on my controlling bitch hat and just started calling around and scheduling apartment viewings for her for the following Monday. Because when your insides are all shitty and grim, sometimes all you can do is make sure your outsides aren’t. Monday came and when we walked into the second apartment on our list, we both knew it was The One. The guy wasn’t even supposed to show it to us–it’s a 1 bedroom and she was only looking at studios–but it was perfect and  charming and a little crooked and had a view of the lake out of the bathroom window.

I mean, check this shit out:

I mean, it’s not a view of Central Park, but there’s water and trees and best of all, strangers on the sidewalk do not have a direct view of her whole entire living space. (I’ve been in first floor apartments so long I barely even notice it anymore, but yeah, it’s definitely creepy.)

We also looked at the studio we were originally supposed to see, and it was also cute and a little crooked, but at some point during the week Cayce decided that if she was truly going to Get Her Shit Together For Real it should be in an adult-sized apartment with enough room for a bed AND a sofa AND a table to (theoretically) eat dinner at. She signed the least the next Monday, and moving day is two weeks later, aka tomorrow!!!

OH OH OH I forgot the best part! The new place is literally around the corner from me. Like, legit walkie-talkie distance. I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS.

In the interest of this being a genuine fresh start, Cayce is getting rid of all of her (weirdly-sized, dorm room era) furniture and basically building this apartment from the ground up. All she’s bringing is her mattress, a bookcase, a little brass bar cart, and whatever possessions fit into the 20 plastic moving bins we rented for two weeks. Oh, and her TV, because TV is the best.

I took some pictures of the new place but they’re TERRIBLE, but here’s a (hopefully accurate) floorplan I made in the meantime:

(Don’t worry, there’s a refrigerator, I’m just very bad with SketchUp layers apparently.)

And here’s a very ambitiously decorated version:



next up:

how we got from this:

to this: 

in SIX DAYS. (Spoiler: some Marie Kondo voodoo and a lot of trips to the dumpster.) (Like, a LOT.)


P.S.   Does it seem weird that I spent so much time talking about Cayce’s Troubles? I just feel like we’ve all been there at some point or another and even though our culture has made a lot of progress in the last few years, there’s still this huge amount of shame attached to this kind of stuff. Especially for women. So this is kind of a post about moving, but it’s more about someone taking huge steps to deal with depression and related shittiness. I dunno.

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  1. Not weird at all. This post is something that I really needed to read right now. You are an amazing friend and it’s reminding me to reach out to my friends. I’m really excited to read about the progress!

  2. This is great, and I’m super happy that you’re helping Cayce get this done. You are officially a Catalyst Friend. We all need one. This move is going to make a huge difference for both of you. Looking forward to seeing how she decorates her new place! Best wishes to her for a happier future!

  3. You’re an awesome friend! I’ve been in Cayce’s place (metaphorically, not literally – that would be weird, what with me being on another continent and all). I am so familiar with the chores becoming giant hurdles and I can recommend nothing more than unfuckyourhabitat. It’s on tumblr and it’s now also a book. She is great and encouraging and gets it.

  4. What a wonderful post, Eliza.

    I’ve been there too, more times than I wish I had been. I remember once a friend came over and helped me wash my dishes because I.Just.Could.Not. She will have a special place in my life forever, no matter the years and distance.

    I suspect that everyone, at some point in their lives, can relate to that downward spiral and inertia of the psyche, unless they’re really shallow or sheltered or insensitive or something. Many people just hide it well.

    Relevant story: In 1991-92, I lived in the LA area and, on my way to a meeting for work, I drove through the intersection of Florence and Normandie and generally through that part of town. I remember looking around and it seemed there was nothing but boarded-up decaying buildings and rust, and every now and then these little houses where people were trying to make some kind of a life for themselves and their kids, and I had to fight back tears … It seemed like every day would be a tremendous struggle for them, just to keep from giving up. Then a few months later this happened, right in that very place:

    Environment isn’t the whole enchilada, but no way it doesn’t impact our frame of mind in a significant way.

    I am so happy for Cayce, for being brave enough to deal with a financial hardship in order to make this positive change, and especially that she has a true friend like you.

    OK if I make a suggestion? My tiny contribution to future joyfulness. 🙂

    I was thinking, what would help Cayce to keep the momentum going? and that maybe some support in pursuing better nutrition habits might be of value. I know all too well that, despite better food being available, sometimes the inertia has me slipping backwards even when there’s no logical reason for it.

    I encourage you guys to look into “once-a-week cooking.” It’s a deal where 2 or more people get together at one person’s house and assemble a bunch of heat-and-eat meals, swap with each other to maximize variety, then load up their freezers at home so they can just pull something out easily and have a healthy, homemade meal. You don’t need to eat that stuff all the time – maybe a couple days a week, so it lasts longer. And you can start small with just a couple options, not dozens. There are all manner of resources (planning tools, recipes, charts, graphs, etc.) on the internet, and books at the library too.

    The strategy is supposed to save time and $$, but it’s also a friendship-thing. Plus, on a bad day, knowing you can thaw out a bowl of that favorite cooked-from-scratch soup can be a ray of sunshine right when you need it. Anyway, like I said, just a suggestion. 🙂

  5. Hi, I’m Cayce. This was one of the kindest and most generous things that anyone has ever done for me. Eliza, if you are reading this: I love you, and thank you. Thank you for being constructive and loving and helpful in some of my darkest moments. You have kept me alive on more than one occasion, whether or not you were aware of it.
    Thank you for being one of the truest friends I’ve ever had. I miss you.