How a 551 Square-Foot Condo Helped Me Come Out

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I’m turning 30 next February. If you had asked me a decade ago where I’d be during this milestone, I never would have guessed queer and living alone in a 551 square-foot Minneapolis condo.

At the age of 27, I tore apart my entire life to start anew. As picture-perfect as my life may have seemed—the ostensibly stable five-year relationship with my boyfriend, the bungalow with tomatoes growing in the front yard—it wasn't the life I was meant to live. I got sober, ended this relationship I started at the age of 22, came out as queer, and bought my condo on a busy corner of town to live alone for my first time. At first, the loneliness was soul-crushing, and I constantly questioned my choices; my first week in my new place, my dog wouldn't stop barking, and I was sleeping (or constantly stirring) on a perpetually deflating air mattress. The only other piece of furniture was an upside-down plastic laundry basket as a bedside table.

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Slowly, though, I grew to love living alone, especially the freedom of making my own decisions. I live in a brick building from 1951 that proudly embraces the aesthetics of the Bauhaus movement — identical units with heavy chrome doors, minimalist lighting, and black steel balconies. My place had good bones, but needed its own personality. I put up banana leaf wallpaper in my living room, painted my bathroom the color of pumpkin pie, changed my light fixtures, and installed a fireplace mantel I found on Craigslist. From my tie-dye comforter to my geometric patterned rug, pretty much everything clashes—and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Just as I was starting to experiment with my own decor, I finally had the space to experiment with my sexuality. I had questioned my attracting to women since my early twenties, yet I didn’t have the courage to date them until after I got sober. In my new home surrounded by plants, incense, and books, I felt like myself for the first time. I went on dates with women who were caring and respectful. As time progressed, my understanding of my sexuality deepened, just as the colors in my home continued to vary and clash.

By the time I met my current partner, I’d pretty much tackled the majority of my projects. I’d even single-handedly installed a massive seven-bulb light fixture from West Elm above my kitchen island by balancing it on my head and twisting the wires just so. I’d become the epitome of a woman living alone in the city; I didn’t need a partner to move my bookshelves and dresser up the stairs, assemble furniture, or hang a curtain rod to separate my living room from my bedroom. I’d been taking myself out on weekly Friday night dates, and my independence was a relief sweeter than the name of my bathroom paint.

I met my partner on a hot summer day, and we celebrated a year together in July. While I’m in the most loving relationship I’ve ever experienced, we’re in no hurry to live together. My partner knows that my condo represents so much more than a place to sleep at night; it’s the home where I learned to embrace my sexuality, deepen my sobriety, and clash patterns in a way that still makes me smile every time I return home. It’s a perfectly imperfect assemblage of nearly thirty years on this earth. There’s no place I'd rather start the next decade of my life.

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