Vixxie’s 15 years of independence
Vixxie’s 15 years of independence
For a dozen of years and then some, I’ve been the queen of my own castle. I’ve been completely independent for far longer than my memory stretches back in time.I’ve, however, rarely been alone. There’s always been someone graciously spunging off me. I went from growing up with my parents/grandparents to living with 5 co-students in off-campus housing by the time I was 19. I then moved in with a boyfriend, and then with another after having a change of heart and re-attending university in another city. He left me cold turkey, I moved back to the city with a roommate and then moved again when I got my first decently paid job and my first real proper lover.
That’s a lot of not living alone. And even less of being sane in the membrane.As I was tidying the spare room, I stumbled upon a pile of old back up cd’s. There’s truly _nothing_ more entertaining, than browsing old files and pictures on a rainy, dank and depressing friday evening. If only to be reassured that you’re currently knocking it out of the park. And to remember all the nooks and crannies of the abyss you’ve explored holding hands with nothing but your own darkness. Funny enough, as I crawled my way out of or into the swamp, this state of mind also manifested in the places I’ve called home. Turns out that this year, in 2016, it’s been exactly 15 years ago that I left the parental home behind and embarked on a journey to independence.Getting comfortable for a ride down memory lane?
As a toddler, I was mostly raised by my grandparents and my aunt. I had an adorable little pink room, more teddies than my heart desired and as far as I can recall, I was just a regular happy kid. I don’t have an incredible arsenal of memories and anecdotes stuck in the back of my head from my early childhood. I just remember fluffy. And pink. And more fluffy. And wallpaper with little hearts and care bears. All was good.And then my reality got ripped to shreds. I was 11 and ready to attack high school. Or so I thought and I got moved from my grandparents back into my parent’s home.
My ballroom [1 room]
Having no siblings, I shared a big room the size of a ballroom only with myself and my horror vacui. Already at the age of 12-17 already, I emotionally compensated “this shit thing called life” by surrounding myself with more projects and “memorabilia” than any human could chew. My jungle of clutter compared more to a tribute to insanity than it did a bedroom. I was two inches away from being starred on the TV show “Extreme addictions: Juvenile Hoarders”. High praise to my mother, the ingenious engineer, who came up with the most impressive home-made structures and bookshelves to somewhat avoid getting trapped in the junk. You know when you were a child and your mother told you “to clean up your room” and you ran out kicking and screaming because it was WAY too much work to tidy? Yeah. You know nothing, Jon Snow.
Stating that I have only bad memories of the times spent in this room, would disrespectful to the adults who’ve tried to brighten up my adolescence. It would be a lie too because it wasn’t _all_ sorrow. But in retrospect, most of the memorable moments as a teenager have been cast aside by the shadows of my own thoughts at the time. Difficult puberty, being bullied at school on a daily basis, being forced into a _constant_ diet basically since I was born (that didn’t really make a dime of freaking difference really). Spending days straight studying, painting and reading a small Himalaya worth of books and magazines because I had no friends at all. Really, I didn’t. Not exactly the all-time favourite of my happy places.
There’s obviously much more than gloom and doom as there are always two ends on a Frankfurter sausage too. I had fantastic (3D) puzzles, Ministeck and Lego stacked to the roof (on the other side of the room). And I had something amazing to create your own architecture. I don’t recall what it used to be called back in the day, but it compares to today’s Teifoc’s building tool kits. You make your own bricks out of clay and then built it up to any structure you had in mind. I’d of been an architect today, if I didn’t have a self-diagnosed case of discalculia.
Loved the time making music with my mom, too.
To university. To freedom. [1 room]
University blew my mind. As did the freedom and the first taste of independence.
Like-minded people, young adults who didn’t mock my love for art and strange aesthetics. People that I could talk to, that didn’t look down on me. Students who were more extreme than me, in every possible way. Goths. Emo’s. Hippies. Yuppies. Artists. BobMarleys. Art university made up in 4 years what primary and high school screwed up in 12. It wasn’t until halfway my studies, that I moved out and into a house with 5 other students. The art university department in Brussels merged with the main seat in Ghent, commuting was a nut’s job. I started hoarding food and conserves from our home cellar weeks before my departure. My parents often wondered where canned vegetables X or pack of cookies Y disappeared to. In my food container to survive ‘Winter’, of course !
My time as a student was pretty much the drawing board for the adult I am today. I learned how to budget. I learned how to bake an egg. I taught myself how to plan, more or less. Starting on the coursework of my uni subject “illustration” only in late March, probably wasn’t the best of ideas :). Nailed it, though. Imagine what I could’ve done with an extra 6 months if I started when I was supposed to! 😉
This was the room in my student’s home. Small, but cosy none the less. Cluttered, still. If I had to compare all the homes I’ve lived in and their contents to where I actually live now, this student home would probably come closest to my current inventory. Art, music, and a gaming console. A girl needs nothing. And yes, I’m in my Game of Thrones mood. Life was glorious.
The Favela’s of Antwerp [2 rooms]
Midway my university education. That’s when I’ve met my first real boyfriend J., the legendary and perpetual underachiever, which resulted -after graduation- in a clean break from student life and led me to the favela’s known as Seefhoek in Antwerp. He didn’t have a job. For as long as I’ve known him, he’s never had a job. I couldn’t afford a real flat so budget and blind stupid love told me to just keep the cohabitation trend going. I didn’t want to return home even though I gladly accepted the silent steady stream of money coming from my parents. Pride wasn’t an issue at the time and we moved into a small studio on the 6th floor of a building, with elevators that were more often broke than not. That was, if you managed to reach the so said elevator after skilfully avoiding drunken hobo’s or drug addicts squatting the public hallways. And no, I am not exaggerating.
From the time when we moved in, with very little property to call our own and thought purple was da boss.
If only things would have stayed as clean as at that point. After a couple of months, the place transformed into a nerd shack stuffed to the nook with second-hand desks, J.’s illegally ripped movie dvd’s and computers as far as the eye could see. Still surprised I didn’t get infected with some kind of deadly bacteria, although I did pick up a serious gaming condition. I started playing World of Warcraft, which I still do today.
Have you ever thought that you could actually plan out your entire life? I sure tried. I am a hundred percent guilty of being the college senior with a 10-year plan. Sweat, tears and a whole bunch of colour markers went into that colour coded time line. I am forever grateful that the plan on that sheet of paper never became my reality. Instead, I adopted my first babies Chansey and Snuggles. That wasn’t part of the plan but was probably one of the best decisions in my entire life. Then, 3-4 years into the relationship, I met B.
Princess Pretend [2,5 rooms]
The person I loved, the career I tried to land, the city I wanted to call home, … Nope, Nope and Nope. I had been checking every floor for an emergency exit out of the dump I was in, and B. was the perfect excuse to do so. I packed up my shit and moved my arse and my cats back to the university city I’d left a couple of years ago.
Somewhere along the way, ex lover J. managed to get himself evicted from the studio and got all my furniture, music instruments and electronics confiscated. Not like I needed them anyway, I was living on love, morning dew and apple slices somewhere on cloud number nine with B and my two cats. The flat was ridiculously small but it was perfect. For a while, anyway.
Nearly 3 hours of commuting every day. A fulltime nine-to-five. A household and boyfriend humping my leg. And trying to find a couple of minutes a day trying not to fall asleep, instead focus on a university master degree course I had set my mind on. This education. The only valid excuse I had to convince family and friends that I had an actual REASON to be in Ghent, rather than having to face the truth: I was a love fool. And an even bigger faker. The common expression of “fake it ’till you make it” arose to a whole new level. I wasn’t able to cope with the life I had gotten myself into. After a year and a half, I was exhausted. Mentally and physically. But somehow we persisted. We came really close to common law marriage, but then he saved us both from the embarrassment by packing up his stuff on a random day out at work and vanishing in a puff of white smoke before I got home that same day. *poof* motherfucker.
He sent me into a tailspin of why. Why me. Why now. Was it because his catholic parents hated the living hell outta me, and promised him a car and a laptop if he broke up with me? Was it because of the secret love letters he was writing to M. after spending an afternoon kissing her in the train station, 250 meters away from the bed we shared? Was it ‘for the job opportunity in the US’ (to then suddenly appear in some guest lectures around the corner because such job opportunity never existed in the first place?). I never knew. I only know he emerged on some rare occasions, 4 outta 5 times it was for a booty call. Most men are like that. The needs of their cocks surpass their every sense of logic. The last time he resurfaced, he’d just met his current wife and he was never seen again after.
He didn’t give me the children that we (eventually) wanted. He gave me the second best thing that will also linger with me until the end of my time on earth: trust issues. It’s thanks to B. that every time the term “trust” presents itself in a conversation, I find myself distracted by the elephant in the room. Still. A dozen of years and big dose of ‘growing up’ later.
The Big, the Stink and the Atonement [5 rooms]
I finished off my year of rental contract in Ghent, saved up some money and then ran back to Antwerp like the bloody wind. My job was there, finding a new apartment nearby was the only logical thing to do. I was in tears of joy when I signed the rental contract on my first, real apartment. Three days later, I was in tears of worry, I got fired from my full-time job and I had no more steady income. Fortunately, the Belgian unemployment system somewhat got my back for a while, until I found the designer job of my dreams.
Sure I couldn’t _really_ afford it without budgeting on food and toilet paper, but … #worthit. A real kitchen. With a door. Fantastic to not have the smell of your dinner, while trying to fall asleep in bed five hours later. Imagine brocolli. Or cauliflowers. Sure, the landlady was a bossy, meddlesome fossil living on the ground floor and grieved me on every odd day for the most peculiar things from leaving my windows open to forgetting to take the thrash out on Tuesday. It suddenly makes you appreciate your own mother more when you realize there is worse. And suuuure, the dark blue wall with the dark floors was probably a reflection of the darkness in my own head but I liked it, at the time.
I was the queen of my castle. I was TRULY independent. And alone. The flat became an overwhelmingly lonely place.
It’s probably around that time I started talking to myself as if I still had an audience and I became wonderfully supportive of me and everything I did. I realized I needed a friend and found new (shortlived) long-distance love with J2. He embodied the purest definition of ‘asshole’. He hacked. He lied. He cheated on me. He stole my designs for his college work. He sort of emptied my bank account by allowing me to pay for his college tuition. Then dumped me for his ex girlfriend (with who he apparently never really broke up with), a week after graduation. Evidently, he broke my heart and I was angry like never before. But somehow not as heartbroken as with B., so I coped. There was also a small infatuation with young M., who sticked around for a couple of months but then found his own cautionary whale called Laura. Of course he insisted on lying about it for a couple more weeks but being a seasoned “has been cheated on”, I simply just knew. So he broke my heart too. But not as bad as B. and J2 did. So that was fine and they disappeared from my life. *poof* and *poof* motherfuckers.
I probably dated a couple more walking disasters that I don’t remember the names of. I know I’ve spent those years of my life being a walking RomCom. My alias name is Emma Stone. We got split at birth. She got the looks, I got the sarcasm.
In retrospect, my move back to Antwerp unfolded much like my breakups: first a feeling of disconnecting, then some rather big questions, some bigger answers and decisions, and finally the big split. That’s the short version. It wasn’t the collection of bad memories I’ve racked up in the place. It wasn’t even all the times I’ve felt so depressed. Nor the times this hell of a landlady harassed me with unsolicited visits. One of the things that did tip me over, was the fact I wasn’t allowed to have cats. And I had two. Then Chansey died, but I still had one.
The thing is though, at your late twenties, you develop that really sexy thing called wisdom. Once your roadmap of life runs off the page, and you can only count on your own two, you start to see what really matters. You stop micro-focusing on your faults and failures and that holding onto past bitterness starts to feel really, really heavy. I atoned with myself and I outgrew the flat. I needed a new chapter in my life.
The spring of life [6 rooms]
So on a very rainy day in November, the truck drove up to my first floor walk-up and I knew I was embarking on an adventure of a whole new calibre. The idea of a white wooden picket fence no longer caused me to want to hurl myself off of a cliff. This felt like it could be the place to grow old(er) in. A good thing as well, because when you’re in your early thirties, the beer in exchange for hauling furniture is no longer an acceptable trade with your friends and my dad’s back is getting weary.
It took a couple of years to budget the new furniture and some more years to get it to match my Zen. But we did get there, in the end. Behold my masterpiece of independence, and the first place where I really feel at peace.
With the new mindset also came the One S., a breath of fresh wind in love. But also P., my “bff” best friend for life and N. my soulmate at the other end of the spectrum. S. was my first true love and the first in my life who wasn’t a complete and utter tosser. It can sometimes be mesmerizing; how the things that used to click like a puzzle seem to suddenly roll down the hill with no means to stop it. Whatever used to work just stops working and everything changes. It wasn’t my fault, as little as it was his. Sometimes love is just not enough. It’s all nice and dandy until your locomotive runs out of steam and if you find yourself being the only one pulling the train, there really ain’t much left to work for. While I’m a firm believer that feelings don’t “just” change, sometimes their stronger selves are buried beneath bad experiences. Either way, some people in your life remain immortalized in your memory as truly irreplaceable. That’s the rub of breaking up. You know that without them leaving you at the right time, you’d never have been the same person as you are now. Yet you miss them with every fiber in your body because there is so much left unsaid.
Fortunately once you learn to be your own best friend, you stop seeking validation from lovers and you realize that the only approval you need is your own. It triggers that part of your being that allows you to just gracefully let go without throwing tantrums and you trust on yourself rather than the good advise of others. I learned that one of the best things in life you can do is learn how to listen to yourself. I guess when it comes to “independence”, THIS is the core lesson one must learn in life.
The good news is that I learned some more stuff from being independent.
For instance: that I am definitely introverted. During the times spent without the companionship of lovers, family, friends and acquaintances, I never felt more refreshed. I learned the pro’s of being independent such as the happy-dance-without-pants is never frowned upon when you’re alone. There’s no one to interrupt your binge watching marathons. You get to rule your roost and nobody questions your rules. But also the con’s of being independent. It sucks to be the last line of defence when it comes down to an empty pantry. On the bright side, you get a rather intimate phone order relationship with the Chinese delivery guy.
I am thirty-something today. And I finally feel I’ve learned how to dance in the rain.
Turning every “I have to” into “I get to” has made everything so much better.