OK, so the other day I started to tell you all of the boring background stuff about buying a house, then I veered out into left field and got all caught up in explaining all of this OTHER stuff and I decided I should separate the veering into a separate post.
When I left you, I was crying. In my car. In the parking lot of a Sherwin-Williams store. Because where do you go immediately after your house closing? THE FREAKIN’ PAINT STORE, THAT’S WHERE.
I had a color in mind and 92 miles of some sort of Greco-Roman inspired curtains to get rid of. I WAS A WOMAN ON A MISSION.
The living room “before”. I shit you not.
But anyway, first the tears.
For me, this was a huge personal journey. If you ever asked me – when I was 15, 20, 30, last week – what I wanted for my life I’d have said a family and a beautiful home. That’s it. I don’t have high aspirations of some lofty career. I don’t have grand travel plans like having to see every continent before I die. I’d love to write a book some day but my feelings about never accomplishing it are “meh”. Maybe I’ll get around to it once the kids are in college, maybe I’ll just drink cocktails on patios. Whichever.
But leaving my husband meant also leaving our house. And that was very very hard. I told myself that one day I’d buy my OWN damn house and that it would be all the things the homes I owned with my ex-husband never were. Comfy. Friendly. Complete. And by complete I mean that projects would be finished and not done half-assed. I’d choose the paint colors myself in advance so that they all went together and actually put time into decorating a room. I’d have friends over to play games and have cocktails while our collective children played in the yard.
For a time, this vision of this happy little home really drove me, but not always in the best way. I let myself feel like I wasn’t happy…wasn’t successful…because I didn’t have that house. I had set a deadline for myself. A year after my divorce I’d start looking – I’d get pre-approved.
I spent most of that first year in debt and struggling. I wasn’t completely under water, but I had credit card debt and a car payment and a student loan. I was making large credit card payments every month while also being charged exorbitant interest rates, all while fully supporting myself on only my income for the first time in my adult life. It was a scary time. The light at the end of the tunnel was that I had money in a Roth IRA that was to be my house down payment money.
One day I saw the situation for the craziness that it was. Yes, I wanted that house, but was it going to be worth it if I got that house and still was paying off this debt? Uh, NO.
With a heavy heart I finally admitted that I was grateful to have this down payment money (mind you, I had started saving in this account when I was 22 so it’s not like it was exactly LUCK), and that if it meant that it would take me a few more years to get my house, it would be better to have the house and also be debt free.
Still, I remember how hard that was…making that phone call and requesting the transfer to my checking account. I felt unstable to not have that safety net there. There was money left over afterward, but my “home fund” was much much smaller than it was. But honestly? Starting that account in my twenties and deciding that being debt free was necessary were the best decisions I ever made.
The credit card was paid off in one fell swoop. I began making larger than required car payments and two years later that was gone, too. After the car I focused on the student loan. And in November of 2015, more than 13 years after my college graduation, I paid off my student loans and was debt free.
My God I almost cried while writing that. YEESH. What the hell is happening to me in my old age???
Basically, I had to come to grips with the idea that I didn’t need anyTHING in order to feel like my life mattered, like I had accomplished something. There was plenty of time for THINGS.
And when I finally had that house I really wanted? The frickin’ water works just started and it felt so good to laugh at myself, sitting in my car with tears streaming down my face in the parking lot of that store, as I told myself over and over, “I just bought a house. I bought a GODDAMN HOUSE. FRICKIN’ A I OWN A HOUSE.”
Because it was just so damned sweet.