this morning, after a tough morning workout class, i treated myself to a latte at the coffee shop across from my apartment. it was a cloudy, quiet morning, and as i handed over my reusable mug to the owner, i surveyed the small shop.
“it’s quiet in here today,” i said.
“yeah,” he replied. “not a lot of tourists saying to themselves, ‘god, i really to check out the corner of east broadway and grand street!'”
as he prepped my drink, i snapped a photo of the empty space–the wooden tables and chairs, the painted tin ceilings; the floral wallpaper and the antique mirror.
and i had a flashback to the first time i’d set foot in ost. it was the second time i went to see my future home (though i didn’t know it was my future home quite yet). the first time had been one night after work; the second was in daylight–a time when i could see that all the flaws i’d seen by darkness were not flaws, but potential. eric, my broker, toured me around the small space, pointing out where i could knock down walls and open things up, where i could rip out closets and create them anew.
afterwards, we walked over to ost and grabbed a drink, and i remember surveying the neighborhood–what would maybe become my neighborhood–in the sunshine and thinking, this would be my neighborhood. and this would be my neighborhood coffee shop. i knew ost, because for as long as i’d lived in the east village/gramercy area, they’d had an outpost on 12th street and avenue A. i’d had 2 very bad and one particularly spectacular first date there. i’d sipped red wine at a tiny marble topped table on their little piece of sidewalk, and eaten their muffins for breakfast.
i knew very little about the lower lower east side. the two bridges neighborhood, as some call it. i’d never walked down east broadway; in fact, i’m not even sure i knew that east broadway existed. but seeing ost–a spot i knew and loved–felt familiar. it felt like coming home.
after eric and i parted ways, i called my parents, and said i thought i wanted to put in an offer.
“it has a grocery store and a dry cleaner,” i said. “and it has an ost cafe.”
“a coffee shop i know,” i replied. “there’s one on 12th and A in the east village.”
“ah,” they said knowingly. “that’s good.”
recently, i did an AMA on my instagram account (@_thegrandapt for those unaware), and one person asked me, “how did you become so confident?” this question shook me to my core, because i simply don’t think of myself that way, at least, not most of the time. but answering the question–and really thinking about it before i did–made me realize that in some ways, i AM quite confident, and it’s my apartment renovation that made me that way.
there’s something about moving to a new neighborhood where you know not a soul, about dealing with contractors and architects and coop boards and city officials, about building a home from scratch that you know to be yours and yours alone that instills in you a sense of “i can do this.”
there was something about the moment that i walked into ost with eric, and ordered an iced chai at the coffee shop that would soon be “the one” that made me believe i was enough on my own, worthy of a big and great renovation adventure.
it’s been nearly two years since i moved into my apartment, and it’s almost 2 years to the day that i started demolition and construction on my little piece of the big apple. in some ways, it feels like a literal lifetime ago. like the sarah who came before this one was another person entirely (perhaps she was!). i recently had dinner at my favorite sushi spot in my old neighborhood, a place i used to frequent on a weekly basis, and i said to my friend maddie, i feel like i lived here a million years ago.
but it wasn’t a million years ago. of course it wasn’t. it was less than two. but in so many ways, my apartment and the neighborhood in which it sits feel so much more like home than anywhere else ever has. it’s funny how that happens, isn’t it? searching for an apartment in new york city (especially with a relatively small budget) means you have to be open to making a variety of different areas your home. in the scheme of things, my search wasn’t exactly extensive, but i looked at many a place in brooklyn before putting in an offer on the place i now live. and while i saw many a nice apartment, i never set foot in a single one that felt like home.
but somehow, this one did. even with its atrocious “before” state, i feel like i just kind of knew it was the one.
the same could be said of setting foot in ost. i didn’t know the neighborhood (my original goal was to find a place in alphabet city, but the inventory was limited, tiny, and dark). i didn’t know the F train, or how i’d get to work, or how i’d get anywhere, really. but somehow, when i set foot on the corner of east broadway and grand–that place no tourist ever deigns to go!–it felt like home.
and that, my friends, is a miraculous thing.