The night I moved into my apartment in Nashville, my parents and I toasted champagne in acrylic glasses. The flutes were new, and we’d unwrapped and washed them for this exact ceremonious moment. We popped the bottle to celebrate both the risk I was taking and the fact that we’d successfully carried all my furniture up two flights of stairs in ninety-seven-degree Tennessee heat.
I kept the champagne cork and plopped it into a glass bottle on the kitchen counter for safe keeping. My parents drove away the next morning, leaving me with rooms full of boxes and a minor sense of panic: did I really just move with no plan and no friends? And people let me do this?
I didn’t have internet for the first three weeks (the woes of negotiating with internet providers), so I couldn’t even drown out my newfound alone-ness with Netflix. My box set of Gilmore Girls DVDs kept me company as I tore open boxes, ate Trader Joe’s orange chicken on the floor, and assembled furniture backwards.
For the first few months, I didn’t hang much artwork on the walls. My apartment is a big space—it feels excessive for one person—and I had trouble imagining ever being able to fill it. Plus, hanging artwork felt so permanent… a lot of work if I wasn’t going to find a job, or last in Nashville more than a few months.
Well, spoiler alert: the logistics worked out, and during my year in Nashville I’ve slowly accumulated items to fill my apartment. A Black Friday TV purchase sits propped up on four books in lieu of a TV stand—an innovative style choice, I think. Magnetized to my fridge are Christmas cards and wedding invites and a few letters from my grandma, all sent since I moved away. In the corner of the room sits an empty planter because I couldn’t keep my fiddle-leaf fig tree happy (turns out it needed sunlight to survive).
My latest quarantine project has been finally hanging my artwork (because what else is one to do during lockdown)? The walls that once seemed empty and daunting are now dotted with prints and paintings I love. I’ve swapped out my cardboard Home Depot box side table (classy, I know) for a real one made of actual wood. Its drawers hold my books and journals and, added bonus, the top doesn’t sag in the middle.
That same glass bottle on the kitchen counter is filled with wine corks collected from hosting Thanksgiving, laughing at The Bachelor with co-workers, swooning over Hallmark Christmas movies with new friends, and treating myself on a warm Saturday night. And to be completely honest, I have recently contributed an embarrassing number of quarantine corks.
When I walk through the blue door, now it feels like a home—my home. Granted, these days an extra work-from-home computer monitor graces my kitchen table, and life looks a little different than I imagined it would. But the walls of apartment 23S hold memories of a transition where hope was lost and found again. The wine corks remind me of the new friends I’ve shared those bottles with and the nights I’ve spent alone. But a stronger person is here to show for all of it, and for that I am grateful.
Olivia graduated from Calvin in May 2018 with a double major in business and writing. She now works as an editor in Nashville, Tennessee and is eating her way through the restaurants of her new town. She enjoys weekend trips with friends, petting other people’s dogs, and drinking coffee like a Gilmore Girl.