I’m heading into the home stretch — only five more months in an apartment and then I hit the road. I’ve sold lots of furniture – more still to sell. I’ve sold some musical instruments. I’ve donated lots of stuff and tossed lots of stuff. I still have a LOT to do, but bit by bit, it’s starting to make more sense.
I’ve been thinking lately about my landlord. I really don’t like my landlord. I don’t like having a landlord at all, but I especially dislike this one. He is a boundary violator and an emotional abuser. Landlord have a power over their tenants that can quickly get ugly. This last year, one of my biggest fears has been that my landlord would suddenly kick me out, forcing me to go on the road half-prepared (because I really can’t afford another apartment and the only logical thing to do would be to go on the road early.)
And it’s not a completely unfounded fear. Several times, he has tried to talk me into moving into a different apartment so he can do something with this one. I have stood resolute that I want to stay here. He has tried to argue that the apartments he wants to move me to are better apartments, but moving is a huge ordeal and I don’t want to move someplace else in the middle of putting together other plans for my life. The expense and energy drain of moving would be so derailing for me.
And I don’t trust this landlord at all. He kept the building without hot water for years and only recently turned it on when someone complained (and probably mentioned lawyers.) Every time he comes into my apartment, he breaks my things and insults my intelligence (the last time he was here, he tried to teach me how to turn a shower on and off, either insinuating that I am too stupid to know how to bathe or too unhygienic to have been bathing. Or both.)
He also kept trying to get me to let him use my bath towels for a plumbing job he was doing. I have a few small luxuries in my life and my towels are one of them — I have two extra-large Egyptian cotton bath towels and I was not about to hand them over to get covered with sewage and caulk. It takes a while to get good Egyptian cotton broken in and mine are nice and thirsty and lint-free — they didn’t just cost money, they cost time and care and it would take many weeks to replace them. He fought with me for a while about the towels and then gave his assistant a key and told him to go take a neighbor’s towels while she was at work. They used her towels and then returned them to her apartment — soiled and sopping wet. Shocking.
Landlords have an ugly amount of power over their tenants because they have the ability to shake our lives down to the foundations — to literally hit us where we live. I hate the feelings of insecurity I have when I think about how quickly my entire life could be turned upside down by my landlord.
I used to live with a man who was snide and snarky and afraid of nothing. But when the landlord would visit, my man would start bowing and scraping and letting out this nervous giggle that was frightening to me. My man would have stood between me and a demon from hell, but he buckled obscenely when the landlord knocked on the door. He didn’t even talk to the police in that obsequious and totally submissive manner. But the landlord broke his spirit every time.
There is something deeply wrong about that.
This is one reason I am looking forward to my new nomadic life: no more landlords. I am done with living my life under the thumb of someone with that kind of power over my well-being. I am tired of feeling like I don’t have the right to exist. Living in a tent, a van, a trailer, I own my own home. I have the right to be where I am, whether it’s because I paid the campground fee or I am on public land or I have asked the Walmart manager for the right to park overnight. I will be where I have the right to be and if I do get told to move along, it doesn’t turn my life upside down because my life is designed to be easy to move along. I will own my own home and moving it from place to place will give me the right to be in whatever place I am in at the time.
My life is not an apology. I do not have to justify the fact that I exist. I can own my own life and speak to others as equals.
I can be a homeowner, with all the headaches and liberties that entails. Sure, my home will be very non-standard, but when I think about the fact that I will own my own home, even at my marginal income level, I feel like I have found a way to beat the system. The system beats poor people down, corrals them in poverty housing, demoralizes them. Part of why it is so hard to climb out of poverty is the system itself. I will still be poor, but I will not live in a ghetto. I will not subject myself to an emotionally abusive landlord. I will live in the open spaces of America, surrounded often by beauty. I will skip harsh winters and harsh summers. I will spend time with family and friends. I will watch animals in their natural environment. I will learn to fish and cook what I catch. And I will have low enough expenses to be able to save money, bit by bit, to move from a tent to a travel trailer over time.
Yes. my life will be different. Even now, I am learning to live without high-speed internet on tap. I have been practicing conserving water. I have been learning ways to cook that don’t depend so much on refrigeration. But none of it feels like a deprivation. I am moving forward in joy. The future is filled with so much potential. I will migrate with the seasons. I will be my own landlord. I will experience so many things and meet fascinating people.
I have decided to leave on March 31/April 1. I can’t promise how much I will write here between now and then — there is still so much left to do! But once I am on the road, I will write often about the things I am seeing and the places I am going. If you are in Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont — we might have a chance to meet this spring/summer (2015) and have coffee. Let me know.
For now, I will be hunkering down, shivering through my last truly cold winter. Come on, spring!