In February, I officially reached the nesting phase of quarantine, fashionably late as ever. Having spent almost a year holed up in this bless-ed 450 square feet, I noticed ways that I wasn’t utilizing the space optimally. I also decided that it was time to invest in certain pieces of furniture. One such piece: a media table/cabinet thing. 

I spent weeks scouring sites looking for the perfect fit. Something that fit my aesthetic, had sufficient storage, the right dimensions for my narrow living room, and ideally a reasonable price. My first choice was an industrial modular media console from West Elm. But, as I was not prepared to sell an organ, I moved to Wayfair for something similar but cheaper. 

I finally found it. It was perfect. Quality, sturdy. Two drawers and two shelves. Dark wood with a metal frame. And a reasonable price. As I checked out, I scoffed at the ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR upsell for someone to assemble this table for me. As a strong, independent woman ™, I assemble my own furniture, thank you. 

The following week, as I was leaving for my daily walk in Central Park, I noticed a package taking up the majority of the entry hallway. Excited, I checked the label to find that it was indeed my media console table thing! I’ll just carry this upstairs real quick to get it out of the way, I thought to myself. Then I tried to lift it. While technically possible, I realized that I hadn’t factored a key detail into my master plan. 

I live alone in a third-floor walk-up. Never have I ever had trouble carrying a package up the stairs. This box was almost as tall as I am, came with no hand-holds, and weighed 135 lbs. I quickly realized this task was impossible alone. 

I left for my walk, pondering my options. I have a couple of friends in town who normally would be my go-to, but they were recently exposed to someone who was exposed to someone who had COVID, so they were quarantining until they could get tested. Nearly everyone I could think of who might be comfortable coming over to help was still out of town. I could ask a neighbor, except I didn’t know any. There was Bob, who owns the laundromat in the basement with whom I am friendly. But no, it didn’t feel like our relationship was at that level. Was I going to have to look into hiring a Task Rabbit? I mulled it all over as I trod my familiar path around the reservoir.

I decided the only choice was to open the box and carry it up a piece at a time.

As I was struggling to open the box, which must have been sealed with some sort of industrial-grade super glue used on submarines, a guy who apparently lives in one of the first-floor apartments entered the building. We exchanged nods as he went into his apartment. I managed to get the legs of the table out of the box when he came back out. 

“Can I help you with that?” he asked. 

And, because I am pathological in my need to do things myself and stick to my plan, I said, “Oh, no, it’s fine. It’s super heavy, so I’m just going to do it a piece at a time. Seriously, don’t worry about it.” 

He nodded and went back into his apartment. 

What in the actual eff is wrong with me? I wondered as I took my first load up the stairs. When I came back down for my next load, I found the remainder of the boxed contents saran wrapped within an inch of its life. I hacked at the saran wrap, endeavoring to open it enough to pull the next bits of this bless-ed media console out of the box. 

For a second time, first-floor guy came out of his apartment and said, “Are you sure you wouldn’t like some help? If we both carry it together, it’ll take no time to get it up the stairs.” 

I sighed. “You know, that would actually be great.” 

He helped me take it to my apartment door, from which point I’d be able to slide it in. I thanked him and we exchanged names. He went back downstairs and I haven’t seen him since.

You might have thought that story was going somewhere else. Alas, ‘twasn’t a meet-cute story. Just a normal “Marebs cannot accept help even when is it offered on a silver platter” story, of which there are many.    

I sat in my apartment that evening considering what had kept me from saying “yes” the first time help was offered. It struck me as a scenario many in my position might face regularly. As someone who is single, there is an extra layer of process when asking for help. Mayhaps you have a roommate or know your neighbors but for those of y’all like me, it can be a challenge. Most of the time, it’s easier to just do the thing myself. 

Except we were made for community. And part of building connection is these moments in which we feel we are inconveniencing each other. In this particular situation, two facts butted against each other–my need for help and my need to do it myself. It feels vulnerable to put ourselves out there, even with something as simple as moving a piece of furniture up the stairs, even when the help is offered freely and unexpectedly. 

Something that has been helpful for me is to have a mantra for these situations. When I feel uncomfortable about asking for something, even from a friend, I remind myself, They are a grown adult person. They will say no if they need to. It’s not my job to say no for them

What do you think? Do you find it difficult to ask for help? What has that decision-making process been like for you in the past? Leave a comment and let me know! 

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