If you’ve never gone apartment hunting in New York City before, lucky you.
Never in my life did I think I’d be so thankful for basic features like windows and closets, which are in short supply in many NYC apartments. A washer/dryer in the building? It’s like winning the lottery. Having one in your actual apartment? Fuggedaboutit! (p.s. I still have yet to hear an actual New Yorker say this).
Luckily, I’ve actually had some pretty good fortune in this area. My current studio is in a location I love, right by Central Park and lots of great restaurants. It even has a cool little reading nook that you have to climb a ladder to access. There’s only one part of it I really find lacking, and that’s the kitchen.
I hesitate to even use the term kitchen, because of how sparse it is. There’s my fridge, and next to that is the sink, and next to that is the stove and…that’s it. That’s right, that’s my whole kitchen. I don’t even have a counter, just a wooden board to precariously balance over my sink or stove if I need to do any food prep.
I decided to overlook it, because I liked everything else about the apartment. I also didn’t cook a lot and got a lot of my meals through work, so I figured I’d barely be using it anyway. Then, of course, the pandemic came along, and while everyone else was stress-baking bread and cooking up other delectable recipes, I was trying to figure out a way to use my sink and stove at the same time.
I worried that my kitchen (or lack of) would be a constant source of frustration, but—in that wonderful way humans do—I adapted. I just sort of got used to not having that much space and learned to work around it. I counted my good graces; I was still lucky enough to have a microwave, an oven, and most miraculous of all, a dishwasher. I decided to get resourceful and transformed an old ladder shelf into make-shift storage for my cooking tools. I put a bedside table next to the stove and used it to balance my cutting board when I needed more space.
Whenever I tell others about my tiny kitchen, I always end up concluding with, “Wherever I live after this, my next kitchen is going to seem gigantic compared to this one. I won’t even know what to do with all that extra space!”
In a lot of ways, learning to navigate cooking in this apartment has felt like the times I’ve had to navigate life during its most challenging moments. Take this pandemic, for example.
While others had roommates or partners or family to spend all that time at home with, I was alone. Luckily, my introverted nature prepared me for most of the emotional struggles, but that didn’t mean I didn’t get bored or find myself craving human connection.
Like I’d done with my kitchen, I forced myself to think of the positives of the situation. I still had my health and a job. I had access to food, running water, Netflix. People who lived through past pandemics definitely didn’t have access to all those things. After I took a moment to count my blessings, I decided it was time to get resourceful. With all my extra time, I caught up with friends on video chat, I turned my living room into my own fitness studio, I used my free time to write, cook more, learn how to knit, and even bought a ukulele (that last one was an impulse buy).
If you’ve been following this blog, you know there were also other struggles during this time. I figured, if I could overcome all of that and learn how to enjoy being on my own, generate my own happiness from within, and never get bored in my own company, then everything that comes after this pandemic will just feel like the cherry on top of the sundae.
We let hard times bring us down, but maybe what we really need to do is treat them like a challenge or a training period. It’s like athletes playing practice games before a real game or a writer crumpling up dozens of terrible drafts before creating something beautiful.
Living good lives and being happy, that’s something we need to practice. If you can get it right when everything’s going wrong, you’ll never again worry about what life’s going to throw at you next. You’ve been through the worst, and you handled it. You’ll handle whatever comes next, too.