The year 2021 has allowed me to realise my biggest achievement yet. I have my own apartment and a place to call home.
The sudden and unplanned move to Johannesburg last year, on the brink of an unknown pandemic, meant that I spent my days in a commune with house mates that annoyed me from time to time. Earning an interns salary of less than R10K also meant that my options for accommodation were limited. I often say that Johannesburg specialises in ‘sardine type of living’, and as much as I despise it, I understand why things are the way they are.
So after getting a promotion at work earlier this year, I got serious about looking for an ideal place to stay. I was very intentional about finding the perfect place for me. I invited God and my Ancestors to guide me to what was mine, because I believed that I was going to find, and I did. Funny enough, it ended up being the first place that I viewed and five minutes into the viewing I told the landlord that I wanted the place and that I would be in touch soon.
The apartment was perfect! It was on the top floor and had a spacious bedroom that led to a balcony where the sun was shining. There was a bathtub that doubled as shower and it was semi-furnished. Most of all, it was within my budget and in a familiar area just 10 minutes away from where my friends stay. I was sold! I had three more viewings lined up after this initial one, but I did not care – I was no longer interested in attending them because my mind was made up. Of course, I did end up attending all three of them and my goodness, I was disappointed.
At the top of that disappointing list was a place that was basically a rondavel turned into a bachelor/open plan space or room, or whatever that was. I remember being unable to hide my disapproval during the viewing, I think I even let out a little sound of “yho ha.a, this aint it”. The owner of the premises quickly picked up on this because I had been standing in the exact same spot by the door for at least a minute. I mean I didn’t know what else to do because the entire space was so crowded with so many things and with two people being inside it at the same time, standing by the door seemed like the safer option.
I left that viewing and immediately called my aunt. I was in so much disbelief and had to share it with someone, and of course my aunt was the perfect person for this. With each disappointing factor I described she replied with just the right amount of disapproval in her voice accompanied by the odd, “asoze mntanam” and “hayi hayi kaloku”. By the end of the call we both agreed that life in Johannesburg is expensive, but were hopeful that I would find the right place, and I mean I already had found it.
Fast forward to today, and I am writing this blog post in the comfort of my bed listening to the birds chirp outside. My curtains are closed but it isn’t dark, because the sun is still shining into my bedroom. I finally have a place to call home and I am loving each and every moment of it. Living alone is an experience that I’d recommend to anyone who can afford to, especially if you’ve never had the experience. This is also my very first time living in my own space, according to my full definition of the phrase. I do not share anything with anyone, unless I want to and that on it’s own is a privilege that I am so grateful to be experiencing.
The last time I had a pseudo experience of living in my ‘own space’, I was living in foster care and was still in high school. It was my first time having my own room, my own bed and my own study desk, etc, etc. I enjoyed it so much, but it didn’t last long because I ended up sharing my room with my foster sister. A decision that I would make all over again if I had to. Then after that, I lived in a commune, then it was res during varsity, another commune last year and now its my own apartment. Thank you God!
I don’t take for it granted that I have my own place, let alone that I can afford to pay for it every month. I know that many older women in my life have never experienced this type of freedom. Take for instance my mother; she lived at home until her early 20’s and only moved out of the family home when she met my father and when he left, my sister and I were in the picture so she never lived alone or had a chance to experience the gold and treasure that I’m experiencing. Then there’s my aunt who had the exact same experience. She lived at home until she met my uncle and even though they didn’t move in together until they were married, any ideas of that she had of independence were crushed by the war that broke out in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) all those years ago. As a couple, they fled and moved to South Africa, where they lived together and eventually had two children. And I am sure many other Black elder women have experienced a similar storyline.
I had this conversation with her during a recent visit back home while I was doing her hair and even she was shocked by her reality. Her eyes widened when she realised that she had never had her own place and her own things that just belonged to her. As a means to brighten up the conversation, she expressed how proud of me she was and reminded me to stay away from boys for as long as I needed to – her exact words. Although I don’t fully agree with that statement, I can still appreciate the sentiment behind it.
There is so much freedom, power and happiness in being able to walk around naked when I feel like it, or blast my favourite song on my speakers during my evening showers. I am getting to know me and I like it. I am also nurturing my inner child who never really and truly got to experience the idea of privacy and who was later thrown into a cycle of instability due to the loss of my mother.
I have been searching for home since then, and now I have finally found it.
My favourite part of it all, is having the entire bed to myself every night (yes, sleeping on a chest slaps but you know what I mean). I have always had to share a bed or have slept on a single bed. I get to wash my dishes whenever I feel like it, while there is nothing stopping me from making pancakes at 11pm on a random Wednesday night. I am also getting the chance to make it my own by slowly furnishing it and filling it up with all the things I have stored in the mental compartment that has been storing interior design ideas since 2014. I can hear myself think and have the choice of two couches to work from.
I promised to give myself the life that I want to live and by having my own home, I am doing exactly that.