Life comes at you fast. And life hit my formerly sweet–smelling apartment like a truck last week.

Last Saturday night, I was cooking shrimp pasta, as one does on a Saturday night. I finished all of the prawns, and froze what was leftover. No shellfish were left unattended. I went to bed full of scampi, ready to take on my Sunday. Nothing out of the ordinary. 

First came the flies. They were big, they were fat, and they were everywhere. They were in my window every morning and buzzing around the house, mocking me. I wished I had remembered to water my Venus flytrap plant, because that botanical assassin would've been feasting last week.

Two days after the first plague, my apartment started smelling like Pike's Place Market. This, coupled with the sudden manifestation of bugs, was enough to convince me that someone put a hex on my household. But I was busy, and I chalked the smell up to a particularly stinky garbage bin and told myself that the flies were seeking asylum from the cold. 

Two more days passed. I was home for no more than twelve hours over the two days, and all I did was sleep. But the smell did not abate, and it began to transform to rot. I called my landlord. No help. The next morning I woke up to a burly handyman in my kitchen, and boy did he have news for me.

"I think a squirrel died in your wall," he conjectured. "We had to open up the roof for some maintenance, and one must've snuck in before we sealed it up. They get in and go towards the light and then just die there. It's pretty common."

His advice?

"Ya know that air spray stuff? I'd use some of that until it passes." 

And with that, he was gone. Armed with his suggestion to Febreeze my apartment until the squirrel carcass finishes decomposing, I was ready to take on the week. But I found myself asking, how did it get to this point? How did I let this animal stew in my walls for so long before taking action?

I knew the answer. I hadn't been home for days, much less spoken to my roommates since the weekend. I was beginning to feel like a subletter in my own apartment (Note: Please sublet my house this summer. Mail in for details). 

It took a rotting animal for me to realize that I need to take more time for myself this semester. I've always been the one to sit in coffeeshops or the library in my down time. If I'm gonna be relaxing, I might as well be productive while I do it. But it's so important to nest, to head home and take care of yourself when the going gets tough and you need some chocolate–covered almonds.

My advice? Let this be a warning. Don't wait until an animal dies in your walls to realize that self–care is important. It's much less smelly that way.