A Tale of Becoming Into My Own: How Living in Spanish Harlem and Adopting a Dog Kicked My Ass: Chapter 3

So let’s keep going … last time, I had left off telling you how I had moved out of my parent’s home in Brooklyn and moved in with my boyfriend. It was my dream to live on my own and I was finally doing it! Except that dream didn’t involve a smelly, roach infested apartment in Spanish Harlem. I tried really hard not to be a brat and appreciate the fact that 1) I lived in Manhattan 2) I didn’t have to depend on my parents anymore and 3) I had the freedom that I’ve always dreamed off! But to be honest, it was a struggle. The neighborhood fucking scared me. I used to run home from the train to my building, always looking behind my shoulder in case there was a creepy dude lurking behind me trying to follow me in (happy to say it never happened). Once inside, I felt like I had all these obstacles to overcome just to get into my apartment. First, I had to ride in the elevator which smelled of piss and second, once inside, as soon as the lights went on, I’d watch the roaches scatter as if they were having a secret meeting they didn’t want me to know about (ew, I get goosebumps reliving that memory – gross!). Despite my ex reassuring me that nothing would happen to me, I just couldn’t get used to living in that apartment (that was inside the dirty, roach infested building) in addition to not feeling safe in the neighborhood.

You see, in my mind, I was attached to this image I had of myself: a vulnerable, little white girl who couldn’t fend for herself (in my defense, I really was little – I’m only 4’11). Eventually I got so sick of constantly hiding and being scared that I decided I would be brave and muster up the courage to walk over to a friends house party that was a few blocks away. I was going to do this on my own and to make a point, I’d do this at 9pm when it was extra dark out! l I needed to get over my fear and prove to myself that nothing dangerous would happen. I was so certain that someone would harass me along the way or that I’d run into a gang running havoc on the neighborhood. But none of that happened. No one gave a shit about me; no one even looked my way! At least not in the way I thought they would. I got a few head nods and warm smiles saying hello but that’s as far as it got in terms of “harassment”. I couldn’t believe it. That was the night I let go of the preconceived judgments I had about the neighborhood and those who lived there and began feeling more confident and safe.

We lived in that apartment for a year before we decided to move the fuck out. The both of us wanted a change and had decided to relocated to Prospect Heights in Brooklyn into a beautiful, newly constructed one bedroom apartment. And we even had a balcony! We lived there for a few years before making another decision we were both ready to take on which was expand our into and adopt a dog. Once that was finalized, we began our search and ended up finding Connor, an Irish terrier mix who was in need of a home.

I remember seeing his picture and thinking he looked like an old wise grandpa. The day we got him changed my life. It was the beginning of a very challenging time for me, forcing me to deal with many, many issues I never thought I had. And as I’ve learned, it is during the dark and challenging times that we (I) are forced to look at our shadows and is where we learn the biggest lessons that life has to teach us. Thus this is around the time I started to (very slowly) “wake up”.

Connor was a special dog. They failed to inform us at the adoption center that he came with his own set of issues, which I learned about on one of my walks with him where he magically got of the leash and plunged at a small innocent Yorkie like a fucking Sabor tooth monster. It was a very traumatic experience for me, one that had me question if I was capable of taking care of a dog such as Connor. I’ll go more into depth about my relationship with him in another post, but let’s just say his resume consisted of the following attributes I wasn’t prepared for:

  • Dog-aggressive
  • Hates and attacks cats
  • Hates and lunges at pigeons
  • Strong desire to kill small animals
  • Separation anxiety
  • Uncanny ability to open doors with his paw
  • Can successfully chew his way out of the crate

I realize now that Connor’s presence in my life served as a catalyst to begin the work I needed to do in order to wake up. And if it wasn’t for my ex and one of my cousins, I would have brought him back to the shelter and would have never gone through the transformation responsible for making me the woman I am today.

The three of us lived in the apartment for about a year before deciding move once again (we clearly like change). This time, we were moving in with another person into a 2 bedroom apartment located in one condo unit over, so we didn’t go too far! I don’t remember what influenced us to get a roommate but looking back now, the living situation had definitely accelerated the awakening process for me and was one of the reasons my ex decided he’d move back to his hometown Buffalo so he can go back to school to become a teacher.

THAT decision – the decision for us to live separately for two years while he got his degree in Education – deserves its own chapter and I welcome you back next week to read about it!

In the meantime, here are more pics of Connor looking dashing as ever!

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