This is a guest post by Brad Benson; his bio is below.
Over the past eight years, I’ve paid more than $200,000 in rent across two apartments.
Both apartments were in no-fee, newish buildings. I spent five years in a high-rise apartment in Downtown Brooklyn at Avalon Fort Greene with a roommate. Then I moved into a 1-bedroom at the Kestrel in Windsor Terrace and lived on my own for three years. I was the first tenant in both. Each was positioned in an enviable neighborhood with transportation, trendy restaurants, and lush green parks just blocks away. And the buildings had amenities aplenty: Stainless-steel appliances! Washer and dryer in-unit! Beautiful stone bathrooms! And shared spaces that included fitness centers, a roof deck, a screening room, and even a sauna.
For eight years, I lived that life. And it was amazing. Friends said my “new” apartments felt surprisingly homey. From the photo wall that chronicled my extensive travels, to the comical “Beware of Cog” (a cat that acts like a dog) sign, to the 12-person tableware set for dinner parties … they felt lived-in. They felt like me.
I’m a country mouse who became a city mouse. I grew up about 30 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, PA, in an area that was not quite rural, but far from the city proper, where my extended family lived. During city sleepovers, when everyone crawled into their respective beds, I would pull up a chair to my cousin’s fifth-floor bedroom window (the surprising slopes of Pittsburgh can elicit some tall houses!) to watch the Pittsburgh skyline. The lights, the traffic, the rivers — everything about it mesmerized me. At the time, it was a simple childhood fascination with city life. I had similar obsessions with dinosaurs, Micro Machines, My Little Ponies, and more … but of course, the most expensive of the lot stuck. That’s how I ended up in the Greatest City in the World.
It is said that New Yorkers never settle into their homes; our transient lifestyle prohibits it. There is always another, better apartment on the horizon. Every home is temporary — a stepping stone to something bigger and better. And the less you personalize, the easier it is to pick up, pack-up, and trade up. That is the trap I fell into; I fell for the ubiquitous lie that to prove our success, we must constantly trade up to bigger, better, more expensive things.
While 2017 was a disruptive year for many, I also faced an unanticipated job change. The liability of $2,720 in monthly rent put me in an inflexible, stressed, and unhappy situation, which is when I realized: I didn’t want this. I never did. In almost every aspect of life, I’m known for my jovial nature, for how little it takes to keep me satisfied. I’ve never been driven by material things. How did I get here? Why was I doing this? I didn’t need these apartments.
So I moved.
I went back to an old, walk-up apartment with a roommate. At 36, that might seem odd, but let’s face it, it’s not odd in New York City — and very little about living here is common anywhere else. I now have a sunny, homey, fun apartment with a sunny, homey, fun roommate. Sure, the floors creak, and there are not enough outlets, and my walk to the subway is a little bit longer, but this Fort Greene apartment has history. It has character. It has personality — and that has always fit me more than a new, sterile, impersonal high-rise. Of course, I’m going to miss that gym in the basement, those stainless-steel appliances, that washer and dryer in-unit … but you know what I’m going to gain?
Having the freedom to do more of what I love.
My rent dropped by more than half. I’ll have the means to travel more. I’ll have the means to perform more. I’ll have the means to hang out longer and later and more often with the people who make me want to pay these crazy prices in the first place. I will not be doing my own laundry (hello drop-off service!), but I will entertain and cook and lay around watching too much Netflix in the new place. And if I position myself at my bedroom window just right, I can be mesmerized by the skyline of the Greatest City in the World. City life is now my definition of “home,” and this new apartment is just part of it.
In 2017, I had to think long and hard about what I really want in life. In 2018, I made a pivot to attain it. On the surface, this move may seem like a downgrade, but in actuality, it’s a huge upgrade.
In what seems like a former life, Brad Benson earned a BA in Business/Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Pittsburgh then put that degree to good use in New York. He is known in most circles as a digital marketing maven, comedy actor, social butterfly, formidable cook, avid reader, great hugger, marathoner, wanderlust traveler, and go-to wedding date. An eternal optimist, his boisterous laughs can be heard clearly (and often) … careful, they’re contagious! You can follow him on Instagram at BadBrad002.