In 2020, My Safety Net Was My Flat
I haven’t properly lived at home in ten years. Sure, there was the brief stint back at mum and dad’s while I found my feet after graduating from university. Plus another stint when my girlfriends and I were in between flats (admittedly I dragged this one out longer than necessary to maximise proximity to dad’s fish curries and mum’s laundry). And there have been, of course, countless Sunday nights where I’ve crashed after family dinners; too lazy to drive back to Kingsland. But, by and large, I’ve lived independently from mum and dad for close to a decade.
And yet despite not having a permanent residence with them for some time now, I’ve always considered mum and dad’s place, our family home, my safety net. When shit hit the fan, it was always mum and dad’s that I wanted to retreat to – instinctively and at-pace. I knew I could turn up unannounced, at any time of night, and no questions would be asked. I knew I could stay for two hours or two days, until I “found my equilibrium again”, as mum likes to put it. And, despite being well into my twenties, I was okay with that level of dependency (I still am!). But, in 2020, my safe place found new roots within my flat, and more specifically within the two glorious girlfriends I live with.
There’s no manual for how to live intimately with friends. It’s distinctly different from living with family or someone you’re romantically involved with. There are different habits that will bother you, as well as quirks and neuroses you’ll let slide (Ange won’t touch chocolate, I can’t touch gluten and Georgia won’t – well, shouldn’t – touch garlic. Ange is addicted to buying earrings and Jack Tame, I’ll cook the same dinner six nights in a row and routinely get into my pajamas at 4pm, and Georgia will start three tasks at the same time and forget to finish any of them twenty minutes later). It’s probably not surprising that Ange and Georgia became my safety net in 2020. By God, if this year has required anything, it’s a buoyant netting device to catch us at a moment’s notice. And between the three of us, we’ve navigated a lot these past 12 months.
There’ve been the usual suspects of flatting in your twenties: Burst water pipes, car alarms that kept us awake all night, a recurring incident of weevils (yuck), undistinguishable stenches from the fridge (double yuck), the request for a rent reduction from our landlord when we all had to take pay cuts due to COVID, and waking up – on more than one occasion – to find one of our cars had been towed after a particularly lazy parking attempt.
We’ve seen each other through missing periods and misread signals from boys, through cancer diagnoses and global pandemics, through cancelled overseas holidays, bad dates, and really fucking bad dates. We’ve accompanied each other to scary doctor’s appointments, and done each other’s shopping when we just couldn’t face the supermarket. We’ve helped each other negotiate pay rises, craft texts we were too nervous to send, and ask questions we were too afraid to know the answer to. We’ve watched each other become godparents and girlfriends, podcasters and patients. We’ve called each other out on self-sabotaging behaviour, negative self-talk and general bullshit. When my dog died it was Georgia who let me ugly, snotty cry on her jumper – not Dad. When my panic attacks resurfaced following an experience with online bullies, it was Ange I wanted to lie on the couch with in silence – not Mum. When I was mortified after the guy I liked asked me for advice about *another girl*, it was Ange and Georgia I admitted my feelings to – not my sisters.
We’ve spent more hours at the flat this year than any one of us could have anticipated, but instead of growing to resent our small quarters and lack of alone time, we’ve found it to be a kind of secret “pandemic perk” we’re all too embarrassed to admit how much we’ve relished in.
In 2020, this flat, and these women, have given me a level of comfiness – a quiet, squishy vacuum – that I still find hard to describe. And in a year that’s been decidedly uncomfortable, what a glorious gift that has been.