Building Castles On Quicksand



“Home is any place that makes you forget the world is on fire.”

-Rudy Francisco

Bus stop benches make the worst of beds. When my Mamaiay and I got evicted from our apartment we checked into the YWCA. Shelters have strict rules and kids aren’t allowed on site without their parents. My Mamaiay was sick at the time so she worked part time night hours as a CNA since the workload was lighter in the evenings. At the age of 12, I had to figure out how to keep myself busy up until 2am. I had a system in place where I’d go to school until 4, do extracurriculars until 6:30, ride the busses with the longest routes (358 and 101) up until midnight, post at McDonald’s until 1 and then nap at the bus stop in the cut until 2. I’d always meet my Mamaiay at the end of her shift and tell her a creative lie on which friend’s house I was at all night. I’ve always wondered who hurts more? The person who tries to hide adversity, or the person who pretends not to see?

Cheat code: when you live in a shelter you get bumped up the waitlist and have priority for Section 8 housing. When we moved out all of the other families celebrated and said their goodbyes. I was devastated to leave, because I felt that I was leaving my first community. In women and family-specific shelters there are assigned activities designed to foster support and inclusion. The parents would engage in weekly self-development workshops, the children would play outside together on a daily cadence and everyone is assigned a certain chore to maintain the operations of the shelter. We literally operated as a family and the women and children there protected and advocated for each other through all the ups and downs.  When CPS came, we, the kids, had our scripts ready; when the cops came, our parents got their stories aligned. How is it possible to feel most at home in such unfavorable circumstances? The right people can make what’s sour taste sweet.

After a few months we moved into transitional housing in Everett, and shortly thereafter were granted a voucher. Our room in the YWCA consisted of about 200 sq feet, just enough for a bunk bed and a desk. We shared a bathroom and kitchen with two mothers and their 7 kids. Moving into the Everett apartment was nice because it was a lot more spacious and I had my own bedroom. The only thing is – when you leave the shelter you’re on your own to furnish your home – and furniture is ridiculously expensive. The apartment was a blank canvas filled with bare white walls and carpet. We didn’t have furniture for 8 months; my couch and bed consisted of colorful blankets and pillows stacked on the floor. Once tax return season hit, we were finally able to turn our house into a home and buy the home essentials.

It’s interesting to reflect and think about how what happens in the past, resurfaces later. I thoroughly enjoy being a homebody and decorating my homes beautifully. – Probably because I didn’t have those liberties as a kid. I’ve lived on my own since I was 18 and always ensured that I had a beautiful home with designer quality furnishings. When you decorate a home, you’re really creating the frame for a future portrait. The pieces you select and the configuration of your home will all play a role in your future memories and interactions as you host others. The home is also a reflection of self – I’m extremely intentional in how I decorate based on the feelings I want to convey to myself. Do I want to be relaxed? Inviting? Artsy? Simple? Adventurous?

As good as it felt being comfortable in the homes I’ve designed, my stuff held me back. I lost my mobility and spent an unnecessary amount of money that could’ve stayed in my savings or invested. With Seattle’s rent being ridiculously high I was walking a fine line and was only a few rent increases or paychecks away from losing it all. Why invest so much money and effort on something that doesn’t have a solid foundation and isn’t mine?

It felt good to sell all my shit and come to DC with only three suitcases. I’m currently living in a furnished 400 sq ft studio and I love the feeling of being able to get up and relocate whenever I want. Not being tied down to people, or stuff – is ultimate freedom. Nonetheless, I can’t wait until my 3 month lease is up so I can move into another studio that I can customize. I already know exactly how I want it to look: white, airy and minimalist. It’d have plants everywhere and have a white platform bed, an Eames rocking chair and a wooden desk + stool. One wall would have whiteboard material laid over it so I can develop and track my personal side projects. The other wall would be a collage of the covers of my favorite sampled songs. The theme of the home would be “transitions” hence the focal point being music that links old songs to newer renditions of the same track.

“Don’t make the critical mistake of taking your natural gifts for granted while you strive to be something else.”

– Briaan Barron

I can’t lie I love interior design and I’m good at it, but it’s not exactly a “sexy” profession. I can’t help but think sometimes if this is the path God intends me to go. Maybe down the road I’ll revisit it….or wait for divine intervention. One thing on my bucket list has been to create a Nonprofit called “Furnished with Love” that furnishes and decorates homes for families transitioning out of homelessness. Inshallah of course.

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