Moving into a health-and-wellness-conscious commune in Portsmouth was never part of Megan Wilmot’s plan. After two years at Hunter College in New York City, majoring in psychology and living the dream life of a 20-year-old in the big city, she found herself out of cash and contemplating her next move. Leaving New York after such a short time felt like a failure. But, being stuck in a tiny apartment, unable to cover the high cost of city life, wasn’t ideal either.
“I was back and forth all the time, wondering if I should stay or go,” she says. “One day, out of the blue, my mom, who was also living in her dream place, Portsmouth, called me and said, ‘You know what? You should move here.’ I thought about it and said, ‘You know what? I think I should.’”
Now 22, Wilmot moved to Portsmouth with her cat a few months ago, joining a living community on Middle Street where her mom and her mom’s boyfriend also live. Tenants all have their own rooms or mini-apartments, but certain aspects of the home are shared, including some kitchens and bathrooms, as well as the garden, porch, library, and a large living room. The building’s landlord, Bob, is focused on more than just providing a place to live. He encourages an intentional lifestyle with ideals such as personal development, mutual support, and clean living.
From its exterior, the building looks like a typical historic home in Portsmouth. Inside, however, are immaculately clean rooms and common spaces with warm lighting, large windows, and thoughtfully placed artwork and sculptures. There’s a large garden in the backyard, carefully tended by Bob’s husband. The tenants help keep the space tidy, working on anything that requires attention, and maintaining the wheatgrass and sprout “factory.” Once a month, residents get together for a Sunday meal to share stories and provide support to each other if it’s needed.
Wilmot is still figuring out where she wants to be in the long run. After ending a serious college hockey career due to a vindictive coach, switching majors five times at different colleges, and overcoming a difficult period of anxiety and depression, she’s emerged with a refreshed idea of what her calling is: She plans to continue studying psychology, focusing on human sexuality and encouraging others to feel comfortable in their own skin.“I’ve always been comfortable talking about it, and I want to work on educating people and helping to de-stigmatize sexuality,” she says.
While she currently works full time at a law firm, Wilmot spends her downtime in the lush backyard, catching up on classic books she’s always wanted to read (and recently “crying hard for everyone to see” as she finished “Of Mice and Men”). Also on her list this summer is “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Catch 22.”
“How is it that I have a private-school education and haven’t read these books?” she says with a laugh.
Though she loves living in Portsmouth and grew up in a small town, Wilmot admits to experiencing some culture shock in her new city.
“In New York, you build this shield around yourself, especially as a woman. It’s like a persona you have to wear,” she says. “You have to be a force to survive in New York. Coming here, I realized after a few weeks that people are different here — they’re nice to you! It’s been nice to just let things go and not be stressed all the time.”
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