Normally at this time of year, my life is focused on one major thing: Comic-Con. That event, which occupies most of my work time for most of my year, is next week, so yes, I’m focused on that. But something happens this week which has also been occupying me: On Friday I get the keys to a new apartment in a new part of town. This is the first major move I’ve made in 18 years, and thereby hangs the tale behind the title of this post.
I seem to live my life in 18-year segments. I lived at home until I was almost 18 and took off for art school in Pittsburgh. After 2 years in school, and another 4 back and forth between my hometown, Tamaqua, PA, and the ‘burgh, I took off for the latter and stayed there for—you guessed it—18 years, from 1980 until 1998. In late 1998, I moved to San Diego, a city I came to know and love by visiting Comic-Con each year, from 1992–1998. I have lived in the same building—albeit in 3 different apartments—ever since.
That building is in downtown in the heart of the historic district known as the Gaslamp Quarter. Over the past 18 years, I’ve watched the city rise and, sadly, fall again. I’m not going to bore you with the reasons why I feel this way. I think one of the great traits any one person can have is to know when it’s time to go, whether it be when to end a relationship, when to retire, or when to move, and trust me … it’s time to go.
I have been aware for some time now that I am desperately in need of a change. Coronado has always been on my mind, since the first time I visited it, probably more than 20 years ago. I never thought I could afford it, and in truth, my rent will almost double, but I need this. I have some dear friends who at first tried to talk me out of this plan (“You know you can just visit there, right?”), based solely on the rent aspect of it. As my current building manager (who has been with me since I moved into my current building) said to me, “You’re doing this wrong. You’re supposed to find a cheaper place to downsize to when you retire.” Well, she’s half-right. I am downsizing. I’ve had to make the tough decision to sell about two-thirds of my voluminous book collection, which became kind of a Sophie’s Choice situation when I watched the buyer carefully look through and pack up my books a few weeks ago. (“Hey … I kinda want to keep that one,” I said quietly to myself a few hundred times.)
Coronado calls itself an island, but it’s not one, technically. It’s connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land known as the Silver Strand, which runs just south of the famous Hotel del Coronado. The main access to the “island” is over the beautiful, San Diego Bay-spanning Coronado Bridge, which scares some people shitless, I imagine. You can also take the ferry back and forth, which I’ve done a number of times now, and which will be the main vehicle for my daily commute to work. I currently live a block away from my office. Now I’ll have to walk a few blocks to and from the ferry landing on each end. It’s a small price to pay, but it does now become an actual commute.
I need this change: I need a push on the restart button, a fresh start, a new place to call home, and any other moving/starting-over cliché you can think up. It’s more than just an 18-year itch this time, it’s a need for a quieter space—one away from sirens and revving motorcycles and drunken 20-somethings—and a place for retirement. I have tentatively set that momentous occasion to be at the end of 2020, which, while sounding like it’s wildly far off in the future and we’ll all be wearing rocket-packs on our backs, is only 3 short years away.
I have been planning this since last fall. I traveled a lot late last year and travel always gives me a different perspective. That, coupled with a minor health scare, made me believe it was time to start planning my escape. I started in earnest around Christmas, and visited an apartment complex right after the holidays, and fell truly, madly, deeply in love. I went back in April with a close friend and after gaining her seal of approval, I decided this was the place, with my mind set on an August move, since my current lease expires then. An apartment popped up in mid-June that struck my fancy (and yes, even at my advanced age, my fancy can still be struck … maybe not as often, but it still happens), one that’s in a quiet corner of the complex, and I signed on the proverbial dotted line, even though the move-in date is literally on top of the move-in date for Comic-Con 2017. I get the keys this week, go to Comic-Con the following week, and then I move the week after that. I can’t hardly wait.
Surprisingly, this whole process—planning, packing, moving—has, while adding a certain amount of stress to my life during my busiest time of the year, lightened my mood. It’s made all my work stuff go seemingly more smoothly and quickly. I wake up at 2:00 in the morning and don’t think of all the things I have to do for work, but instead plot out prospective floor plans and bookshelf arrangements, wonder if the 47” table is big enough or do I need the 59-incher? I have become intimate with IKEA, Kohl’s, and Bed, Bath and Beyond. I’ve purchased new dishes (Fiestaware!), new flatware, new towels, even new placemats. I look at paint samples, and plot a radical color scheme for my new apartment, one counter-intuitive to my black and grey T-shirt wearing nature. I bother my friends to come help me haul away patio furniture, God bless them, because my Honda Civic isn’t up to the task.
It has all—so far, fingers crossed, knock wood, rub that rabbit’s foot—been an incredibly smooth and enjoyable process. I still have to move, but that’s all lined up. I may get there and find my upstairs neighbor had a bowling alley installed, and the ones on either side are deaf and listen to Wheel of Fortune at eardrum-shattering levels before turning in for the night. I don’t care. I’m going to have a balcony, which right now is the sexiest 7-letter word that I’ve ever heard.