Hatching out

Launching into Limbo

A couple mornings ago, I woke up, walked to my kitchen, turned on the stove and made some eggs — two of them, over easy. 

On any other day and in any other kitchen, this would’ve been a rather unremarkable morning for me. Eggs are my favorite breakfast item, and over the years, I’ve prepared them thousands of times in a multitude of ways: over easy, fried, scrambled, poached, as an omelette, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, as a frittata, souffléed, etc. 

As far as eggs go, it seems as though I’ve tried it all, and so cooking them has become an activity no more noteworthy to me than washing my hands or tying my shoes. 

But the eggs I made this past Tuesday were different. These ones were special, part of the first meal I cooked in my new apartment here in Berkeley. 

There’s something about apartment life that makes unexceptional tasks — tasks that I’ve always done but never really paid any attention to — seem unexpectedly novel. So much so that during these past few days, I’ve felt like a young boy again, as if I’m doing many of these habitual things for the very first time.

For example, there’s cooking eggs in my kitchen back home, and then there’s cooking eggs in my own kitchen on my own stove with my own skillet that’s coated in a thin layer of my very own stick of lightly salted butter. One of these actions I’ve been doing for the past 10 years, and the other is markedly new and different. The distinction between the two is undeniable. Can’t you taste it?

I certainly could, if not for any other reason than the fact that the two eggs I made Tuesday were downright awful. Judging from the final product — two sad-looking blobs in the corner of the pan — it really did seem as though they were the first eggs I’d ever made (each assumed the texture and consistency of rubbery pancakes).

But even more fitting for the occasion, I think, was the smoke-filled kitchen and incessant alarm of the carbon monoxide detector, both of which accompanied my cooking of this rather unfortunate inaugural meal. Even a plastic, battery-powered box doesn’t believe I’m ready to live on my own, and honestly, I don’t blame it. 

Regardless of my kitchen mishaps, though, those two pancakey eggs felt decisively powerful, momentous.

After I finished eating on Tuesday morning, I went to the sink to wash my dishes. For whatever reason (probably simple laziness), I’ve harbored a lifelong aversion to dishwashing: After cooking a meal, I frequently leave my plates, pans and silverware sitting uncleaned by the sink, on the table or at the counter. 

But believe it or not, during my first few days living in the apartment, even this mundane and dreaded chore has assumed an air of wonder. Following each meal, I’ve actually found myself enjoying my time spent at the sink — and it’s a good thing, too, because the dirty dishes in my apartment don’t seem to quickly and inexplicably disappear like they do back home (thanks again, Mom). 

This same excitement has also applied to vacuuming the carpet, cleaning the bathroom, stocking the cupboards and even taking out the trash. Shocking, I know, but there’s this sense of complete control over my living space that I’ve never experienced before — not in my bedroom back home or even in my dorm room here in Berkeley last year. 

Of course, my parents are still helping me pay my portion of the rent, and both of them have patiently guided me through the many duties that go along with living in an apartment. But in the end, it’s entirely up to my roommates and me to decide what we want to do with our new space — our carpet, our bathroom, our food, our trash. It’s our territory to govern, at least for another nine months or so. And that’s oddly exhilarating. 

Perhaps my embrace of these newfound responsibilities is a sign of true maturation — you really have to be an adult (and a strange one at that) to find particular joy in household chores.

Or perhaps it’s just the opposite, and the novelty of apartment living — as well as the fresh, extraordinary opportunities that accompany it — is a temporary thrill that will soon wear off. And before I know it, there will be ceiling-high piles of dishes sitting in the sink, giant dust bunnies filling every corner of the carpeted floor and miscellaneous foodstuffs covering the entire surface of our laminate countertop.

More likely, though, I’ll find a happy medium — between mess and order, comfort and unfamiliarity, old and new, irresponsibility and accountability, childhood and adulthood. 

After all, it’s this perpetual state of limbo among them all that keeps me going — and fulfilled.

Jericho Rajninger writes the Thursday column on the liminal space between childhood and adulthood during a summer home from college. Contact him at [email protected]