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You know those moments when you've realized the work has paid off? Or that the current timestamp will be one of your lifelong memories?

It was the last hug on my longest friend's porch the night before she left for college. It was walking the rope bridge on Giant's Causeway after Googling pictures of the terrains. It was the crowd in unison while Noah Kahan performed Everywhere, Everything under the Pier 17 lights. It was dancing to ABBA with my college roommate in an off-road dive in Stockholm.

It wasn't the 18th birthday in the K-Town clubs, but the three-minute cab ride back to Penn. It wasn't the seasons on Varsity, but that one-time hat trick. It wasn't college graduation, but taking a drink out of the American flag flask that found its way around during the ceremony. It wasn't moving into my first solo apartment, but everything about the first Chinese delivery order.

I'm a believer in the little things, to look for the magic in the mundane. And those small moments are the treasures that I hold onto dearly. Even the cab ride...we still talk about those three minutes, even a decade later.

Tonight, I had another one of those realizations. It's not déjà vu but a consciousness of the moment becoming a memory, knowing that you haven't seen it before but you'll replay it again.

It's a lovely evening in Manhattan; it's raining and romantic. I have a newly installed curtain rod with opaque white curtains. I have three candles burning as the main light source. I have my sink empty and my trash can a little too full. I've completed my day and prepared for the next. I have my phone, which is standardly dry, on DND anyway because the family group chat is sending OJ Simpson memes. It's perfect.

I'm aware that April 11th, 2024 at 9:15 PM-ish will be a mental snapshot that I'll look back on in 15 years saying "Wow, I loved that little loft." Like Lion King, as far as the light touches is my kingdom. And I don't care that the light only goes a few feet. I've dreamt of this exact moment for as long as I can remember.

I was the 16-year-old who couldn't wait to grow up and move out. I was the scared 18-year-old who didn't think she was ready to leave. I was a 24-year-old chicken who was convincing herself she didn't want more than a Long Island co-op. But I'm also the 27-year-old who finally, truly believes that it does really just work out.

I did it. I have that comically large bar cart that's bejeweled with years of thrifted glassware. I have my bachelor pad dart board. I have the pink silk couch of an old Italian woman matched with an orange velvet chair of my great-grandmother's. I have countless pint glasses from various adventures; I have even more shot glasses from loved ones and travels. I have my parent's old mantle mirror. I have my walls adorned with custom art, signed set lists, pictures of family, and cards from friends. It's my vision board come true. It's the dream that I have wanted my entire life.

I've created my slice of heaven in the world. And I'm having its housewarming so soon. It's everything. It's so simple - just a set of keys and a party. But to 15-year-old Clare in trigonometry class, this is what she studied for. She did fail those regents....twice....but she studied and kept working so she could get these keys one day.

I wish I had déjà vu of that moment, the flash second of standing in my hall and looking into the candle-lit living room. I wish it was déjà vu so that I would've known long ago that this would be my reality. But it wasn't déjà vu. It was the acknowledgment, awareness, and appreciation for all past and present that have led me to be able to say "I'm home" when I turn my gold (ugh, gag me) keys.

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