Freezing rain was falling as a leasing agent rushed me under an umbrella and into a brand new one-bedroom apartment. I was visiting a luxury complex that had just been built near me. After driving past it too many times to count, I decided it was finally time to see what it looked like inside.
For years, I have been searching Realtor.com and Zillow for properties to buy in New Jersey. After putting in multiple offers, my plans to buy a house kept falling through. This has been going on for years, and I became sick of living with my parents in a never-ending state of housing limbo. The longer I waited, the more frustrated I got. I felt like I was being held back from starting my “real” adult life. I was also too embarrassed to admit that even well into my late 20’s, I was still living with my parents.
My insecurity kept mounting every day, so I decided in a very spur-of-the-moment decision to just get into a new apartment. As I drove to the complex, I told myself that I was going to sign a lease no matter what. I thought that I just needed to push myself out of my comfort zone. The entire drive over, I had to give myself a pep-talk: You can afford this. It’s time for you to move out. You need this. Don’t be a loser.
But as soon as I stepped foot into the one-bedroom apartment, I got the heeby-jeebies. At the end of the living room, there was a large floor-to-ceiling window that exposed the apartment to the cars in the parking lot, street, and sidewalk.
“As a woman living alone, this doesn’t really feel safe to me,” I said. “Do you have any upstairs one-bedrooms?”
The leasing agent shrugged, and said, “You can always put up curtains.” He also told me that there were not any one-bedrooms available on the higher levels, and that this was my only option. He also treated me like I was being a bit paranoid.
Don’t be stupid, I thought to myself. There’s literally no reason to hate this. My intuition was screaming, “no no no no no”, but I was trying my best to ignore it. Logic told me that the odds of something bad happening to me were slim-to-none.
At the time, I never looked up the statistics that out of every 1,000 women living alone, at least 21 of them become victims of a burglary. According to Burglary.com, single women in their 30’s and 40’s who are recently divorced or separated have a higher chance of being robbed than younger women in their 20’s, possibly because it’s assumed that they are going to be more financially comfortable. And according to Reolink.com, New Jersey (where I live) has more incidents than any other state.
So I had very real reasons to feel afraid, whether I knew it or not. I also didn’t like how the complex was still under construction. I’m a writer, so I need peace and quiet during the day to get my work done- not the grinding of machinery and hammering nails
I actually forced myself into paying for the deposit. When I got home, my intuition and overall sense of bad vibes was so strong, I felt physically sick. Everything in my body was soul was rejecting this idea, no matter how much my logic told me I had nothing to worry about.
The only thing I could do to relieve the panic was to call and ask my leasing agent an hour later to cancel. He sounded disappointed, and said, “Alright, if it makes you feel better, I can get you an upstairs one-bedroom.”
I was shocked, and honestly pissed off.
“Really?….Because when I asked you about upstairs apartments, you told me there weren’t any available,” I said.
Yeah. I’m pretty blunt like that.
Stuttering, he said, “Oh, I didn’t tell you, because it’s $50 more a month.”
Really? Paying an extra $50 a month in exchange for feeling safe is nothing. Maybe he was just desperate to get rid of a ground floor apartment, and he thought he could gaslight me into taking it. Needless to say, I will never move into that complex.
I would have no way of knowing that just a couple months later, my family would need my help in a big way. My mom had to unexpectedly sell her house, and I spent at least 3 weeks helping to move things out, clean, pay for a moving truck, and find storage. This cost me roughly $1,000 cash out-of-pocket, as well as a couple hundred work hours I sacrificed, and that lowered my income. This one incident ate away at my savings, and I’m still trying to recover.
At the time, I had no logical explanation as to why my gut feelings were screaming “no”. But maybe the Universe was trying to tell me that it wasn’t the right time to move out yet.
It’s not just me. Most people choose a place to live based on logic, rather than intuition. I can’t tell you how many friends of mine hate their apartments, and yet they keep living there anyway. They would complain about the neighbors, the landlord, the location.
I’d say, “Why don’t you just move?”
They would always come up with some kind of excuse. Usually, they would say that it’s close to work, so it’s convenient. Then, a couple years later, they finally find a new home that feels right, and they say, “I can’t believe I didn’t move sooner.”
Why does society condition us to ignore our gut feelings?
Finding a place to live is a big deal. It’s where we spend most of our time outside of work. Or, if you work from home like me, it’s where you spend almost all of your time.
Next time you choose where to live, make sure it feels right, even if it means taking time to live with your parents. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but remember- it’s a temporary annoyance in exchange for living in a place that actually makes you feel happy and safe.
Shannon Quinn is the editor-in-chief of InspiringHome.org