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I know I’ve mentioned my “apartment” in passing before and some of yall have asked me to share more about what the heck I was talking about so I figured this little topic would make an excellent Flashback Friday post! 🙂
Both of my parents are yankees. My dad is from Maine and my mom is from Michigan. Mom moved to Florida in high school (the summer before her senior year…how sucky is that?!?!) and Dad moved sometime in his teens. They met, married, and had my brother and I while still in Florida. When I was four years old my dad got a new job in Lawrenceville, GA. We moved and they built the house we lived in until I was 12. It is what I consider my childhood home and always will 🙂
My parents divorced when I was nine and my dad actually lived in a house in our same neighborhood for awhile. His bff owned the home but was living overseas on business so it was a win-win. Dad got a good deal on rent and his bff had someone trustworthy caring for his house. Dad eventually got his own place on the lake and my mom, brother, and I moved to another house in a different neighborhood in town.
The summer before my freshman year in high school Mom, Brandon and I moved back to Florida. Dad still lived in North GA on the lake. Prior to moving I wanted to stay but decided to give it one year in Florida. After that year I decided to move from Florida back to Georgia and live with my dad. It was not a light-hearted decision at all and looking back it was a HUGE one that truly shaped my entire life (if I hadn’t left Florida who KNOWS where I would be now!!!).
When I moved in with Dad I was zoned to go to a school near his lake home. Well…we toured the school and it just was not a good fit. For many reasons: 1. the girl who gave us the tour was a pregnant student, not a good sign! 2. their most prized item at the school was their huge tractor…I have ZERO farming interest… 3. They wouldn’t allow me to take Spanish 2 as a sophomore and I’d had Spanish 1 as a Freshman so it’d really mess up my scheduling. Obviously, #3 was a legit enough reason to look for other options. We checked into private school but when I decided to go to Open House day for Central Gwinnett everything kinda fell into place.
I had gone to school with pretty much the same set of kids from pre-school through 8th grade. Visiting the high school where I would have attended if I hadn’t moved to Florida and seeing all of my old friends totally made me want to go there for my Sophomore year. Dad worked his magic and we got me enrolled 😉
His house was a 45 min ONE WAY drive to school each day. Luckily Dad also worked near my school so we made things work. His bff still owned the house in my childhood neighborhood where Dad had lived for a bit and he worked a deal with Dad where if Dad could rent out the entire house then he’d give us a good deal on the finished basement apartment for me to use. I would ride the bus after school (I didn’t turn 16 until November) and hang out at the basement apartment until Dad got off work. Then we’d drive the 45 min BACK home.
Dad often had to work late or even had to travel. It started to get tricky, so my cousin came to live with us for a bit and acted as my “nanny” of sorts. She drove me to and from school each day and cared for me while Dad worked late or was gone on business trips. After a few months of all of that it just made logical sense for me to STAY at the apartment all the time. Once I had my license and a serious boyfriend who lived a couple neighborhoods away I wasn’t really too interested in the 90 min car ride to and from school or in being SO far away from all of my friends up on the lake.
So I officially moved into the apartment! It was sometime towards the end of my sophomore year so I was 16 years old when I moved all of my stuff in. Here is the outside of the main house:
The renters had the ENTIRE house, including the driveway and the garage so I always parked on the street. This left my car out in the open and very susceptible to being damaged…I swear I got egged like 15 times haha!
I ALWAYS took pics in front of this tree in the front yard 🙂
Dad cleared a path and added stepping stones for me to go around the house to the basement door to access the apartment. I had ZERO contact with the people upstairs. The door to the main house from the basement remained locked and I had my own deadbolt with separate key entry for my door. That didn’t stop me from being TERRIFIED though. Omg. I dreaded that dark walk back to my door from my car! Dad was so great to install flood lights for me so I felt much safer.
I had a super big back porch and access to the yard. I got Sadie, my dog, the summer after I turned 16 (Mark, my high school boyfriend, bought her for me as a 6 month dating anniversary gift). While dogs are a pain to care for, I’m so thankful I had her. Having her to snuggle with at night made me feel less alone and less afraid for sure! We also rigged up a LONG leash system so I could let her outside without having to walk her. I was WAY too scared to let her outside at night when I was there alone!!!
I always think back on that first day of school when I rode the bus to the apartment and just literally SAT THERE. We had NOTHING there for me to do and being the first day I didn’t even have homework! When I started staying there more often we slowly moved things down there. The apartment evolved and changed over time. At first the walls were bare, then covered in Dad’s extra stuff (mostly pictures of ducks or corvettes), then covered in my things (mostly Blink 182 stuff and movie posters). By the time I moved out (when I went off to college!) it was def MY space 😉
I tried to find pictures that would give an idea of the apartment…I mostly have pictures in the living area since that’s where we all hung out most of the time! It was a HUGE room with plenty of space!
This was a later picture obviously by the posters and by the blinds on the door!
Computer area, notice Dad’s pictures 😉
Another view of the computer area…love that old school printer and my CD burner that I thought was SOOOO cool haha
Area between the computer and the door leading into the kitchen
Wall across from the entrance door. I would always do my homework, eat dinner, etc from this couch!
Wall between the couch wall and door wall
How awesome is that tv?!?!
Before we got the blinds on the door I, legit, had a Mexican blanket hanging up to cover it. Doors with windows freak me out!
(Like all the junk piled on the table? I was a high schooler with my own place…DUH it was a mess 90% of the time haha)
Sadly, I don’t really have pictures of the kitchen area. You can kinda see it behind me in this one. It was a TINY space. There was a small kitchenette to the left that had a sink, microwave, and cabinet space. No oven or stove…I literally had to COMPLETELY learn to cook when I moved to Valdosta and started dating Zach 😉 To the right behind me were the stairs leading up to the main house and a door to the unfinished portion of the basement. In the middle of that area was a little hallway with the fridge and the entrance to the bedroom.
This picture doesn’t really show much of the apartment but it made me laugh for many reasons. Especially the fact that we were celebrating Sadie’s birthday…poor Sadie. I have NO CLUE when her birthday is now haha! She went from being very spoiled to pretty much forgotten. Bless her heart!
The bedroom was very basic. Pretty much just my bed fit in the room and I had a tv on the wall across from it. There was a small cubby closet as well as a walk-in closet. I can’t even remember what I stored in either of them since my BIG closet was in the unfinished area. I know I had a dresser in the closet in the bedroom with pjs, socks, underwear…that type of thing.
Who doesn’t wanna wake up each morning to a poster of Corvettes? 😉
I slept with a nightlight on every single night and had the phone right next to my head in case I got scared. Somehow my number got put out there at a jail or something because I remember getting several calls that when I picked up they’d say “you have a collect call from inmate such and such do you want to accept these charges?” Obviously, I never accepted them!
The bathroom was attached to the bedroom. It was a single sink with a little cabinet storage, toilet, and a shower. No bathtub! I didn’t have a tub to soak in until Zach and I bought our house in 2008 (lived in the dorms my Freshman year of college, wouldn’t use my rental tub, or the tub in our first home…)! It’s probably why I’m not a HUGE bath person!
The unfinished portion of the basement was about the same size as the finished portion. It was HUGE. Dad hung up a bunch of poles and I had a massive closet. I wish I had pictures of the entire thing…this is only PART of it. Yes, I had a TON of clothes haha. I’ve always been a quantity over quality person when it comes to my clothing collection. I loved (and still do love!) bargain hunting. The difference from then and now is that then I had a lot more “fun money” to spend and a lot more time to spend it!
While it was “my apartment” I didn’t stay alone alllll that often. Like I said, Dad worked nearby. So he put a bunk bed in the unfinished area and many nights during the week he’d just stay there with me so I wouldn’t be alone. When he traveled for long periods I’d often spend a few nights at Mark’s house (in his sisters room, so nice of his parents to have me so often! I think I ate dinner over there several nights a week) and I’d also stay with my childhood bff, Michelle, often (she lived in the same neighborhood that I did). I had many friends come stay with me too…which now as a parent I wonder if their parents KNEW that we didn’t have any adult supervision?!?! I know I sure as heck wouldn’t be letting my kids spend the night with a friend who had her own place!!!!
As you can tell, I had a good bit of fear being on my own. I know Zach teases me a lot now for how afraid I am when he travels but it’s for a legit reason. Here are a few reasons as to why I think I have such fear issues. 1. When I was in 8th grade I was home alone at the house I lived in with Mom prior to moving to Florida…it was on the market and I got out of the shower (thankfully in a towel) to see two men in the house! The realtor didn’t realize I was there and was showing it…scared the crap out of me! And is why I totally have issues showering when I’m home alone now! 2. While living in the apartment I was watching TV and a police officer came hustling down the stairs that connected to the main house. He showed me this photo of a man and asked if I’d seen him b/c he was wanted (I can’t remember why…you know how the mind works…I have always thought it was b/c he escaped from jail but I don’t think he actually said that? Maybe he had skipped out on parole?) and had given MY address as his last known address!!! YIKES. That combined with the calls from jail had me FRREEEAKED. 3. I went to counseling (good call on Dad’s part for sure!) and the counselor said I had high anxiety and separation anxiety issues. I have never been medicated for either but have always just learned ways to deal with it. The flood lights, leash rigged up for Sadie, staying with friends, having people stay with me, etc etc all helped in allowing me to sleep at night!
While it was a kinda crazy situation, I really am so thankful Dad and I decided for me to attend Central. All the adjustments and finagling was worth it! My experiences and friendships in high school have lead me on the path I’m on today and for that I am so grateful! Zach and I talk all the time about the choices we made in life to lead us to each other and I KNOW that all of my experiences lead me to him 🙂
As an adult looking back on my apartment living situation I am really proud of myself. Being that young and having SO much freedom, I handled it very responsibly. I could have been having parties all the time (heck, I found out that the renters upstairs were DEALING drugs to kids at my school!!! Something they referred to as “ice”?), I could have totally skipped school on the reg, I could have chosen a much different path. Instead I graduated in the top 20 of my senior class. I won many scholarships for college based on my academics and writing. I was involved in many after school organizations. I’ve never done any drugs, I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. I also never allowed others to use drugs in my apartment (and trust me, people asked!!!). Was I perfect? No, but I think I was a lot more mature than I could have been. The way I always looked at it was like this: People expected me to make poor choices. I had plenty of excuses to justify them. They would have said “of course Emily got bad grades she had too much freedom” or “of course she got on drugs, had a string of guys in and out of her place, etc etc.” Instead, I lived my life in a way where people said “Wow! Look how Emily turned out in spite of such and such.” I’ve always preferred to outshine people’s expectations of me rather than live up to them 😉
I’m sure when reading this some of you are thinking that I was too young to be on my own and that the school should have done something about it. Really, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I saw Dad regularly. I had a good support system of close friends. We made it work! The school did catch wind of what was going on and I remember a teacher pulling me aside and asking me if I needed canned goods or anything to help me out. Haha. Dad didn’t abandon me or anything…he not only paid for all my expenses but was very involved in my life. We went out to eat all the time together, he stayed with me when needed/possible, and I went up to his house often on the weekends. He did have to go to a meeting with the school and provide pictures of my living conditions. I was so close to 17 by the time they found out (which is the legal age where you can be emancipated and live on your own) that they didn’t do anything further after their meeting.
While it wasn’t an ideal situation, I feel that we made the best of what we could manage. I have wonderful memories of that apartment and of that time of my life. I was an adult at a younger age than most of my peers and I think it only helped me become the person I am now. Would I ever have my own kids live in such a situation? Heck to the no, but I do believe it was for the best in my situation 🙂 Although it IS going to make my time as a parent of a teenager interesting…I won’t really have much to go from haha! Curfew? I didn’t have one. Checking in with a parent? Rarely. I remember I’d call Dad when my friends were calling their parents just b/c I felt like I “should.” It will be tricky to know how to handle my children at that stage in life since my upbringing during those years was so different from what theirs will be, but I also think it’ll make it harder for them to get away with stuff. I can see myself saying “I lived on my own and I still got myself up and ready for school on time…you can do it too!” haha!!!