"It's a little strange here," I wrote in my journal on the first night alone in my new apartment. It was a small concession, wedged between a list of to-do's ("paint my walls," "need lamps…better linen…a new comforter") and things done ("unpacked," "straightened up my files"). The overall sentiment about my new world order? "It is a fairly good feeling."
After the past six months, you'd think my newly acquired independence would kick open a door that led toward more triumphant living. Living with my ex-boyfriend during that time, I yearned for my own space. I would meditate on a vision of myself in the near future: Sitting in a living room, alone, quiet, content. I got the living room, I had the silence, there was no one to interrupt. The "content" part was hard to come by. I didn't feel so much free as I did hemmed in by the small quarters. Instead of feeling satisfied I could only ask: Had I simply switched cages?
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"For many, many people, a tested or failed relationship is the gateway into their most formative Phoenix Process," writes Elizabeth Lesser, author of Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow. Lesser describes that process as the path to inner peace; to willingly undergo it is to be changed by "the shattered pieces of a difficult time" and come out for the better. "Our illusions, our rigidity, our fear, our blame, our lack of faith, and our sense of separation: All of these—in varying strengths and combinations—are what must die in order for a more true self to arise."
The size of my apartment seemed to anchor my perceived inadequacies. By the time I found it, I was so desperate I would've agreed to pretty much anything within my price range. So when I walked into the 300 square foot "starter apartment" for less than $1,300 a month, my absolute ceiling on what I could afford, I felt the urge to snap it up. Especially since there was another man who saw it immediately after I did and wanted it as well. Never mind that the bathroom was tiled a Pepto-Bismol Pink or that the place had only one window or that the foyer wood floor was anything but level.