The past few weeks have been, well, transitional. It all started with me going full time at the bus driving gig. No, actually, it started after I got my first paycheck from having gone full-time at the bus driving gig. Money, of course, can be the motivation for a great deal of change.
For weeks, we’d been really struggling with the current living situation, especially with having a roommate. Just little things, like housework, like the sounds of someone else in a space that we have to share, like the expanse of our lives coming up against the walls of our current reality, all started to pile up. One little thing after another, really. We’d constantly talked about the kind of life we wanted to have – and the kind of home we’d like to build together – but our finances had always stymied us, not to mention the insanity that is the housing market here in Portland. We wanted a change, but really saw no way forward in the immediate future.
Then, of course, the money started coming in.
Then, of course, my mind started to ramp up in it’s imaginations.
I have had it in my head that I want to buy a piece of land, preferably with a farmhouse on it. I wanted a little spot of my very own that I could do with as I please. I wanted to be a steward to the life upon that soil, and create a space that was a tiny microcosm of what could happen if a person didn’t see the dirt and creatures living on it as only a means for income. Yeah, pipe dreams like that happen when you’re as much of a dirty hippie as I can be, really. So, I started looking. I hit up the land-for-sale websites, scoured the real estate pages, and even found myself daydreaming about a couple of choice spots that might suit me, might suit us. Before I could make a move though, I needed to see where I stood at the bank.
Well, everything was fine and dandy at the bank, that is, until the question of my student loans was broached. Turns out, of course, that my investment in my education – all $157,000 of it – was a detriment to my ability to afford a home. And, of course, this wouldn’t have been a factor had I been seeking to purchase something before the crash of 2008. Back then, it was assumed that I’d managed my student loans through the proper channels, placing my housing costs at the top of the pile of bills, which is the only way I’ve ever dealt with my student loans, to be honest, but because so many people got into homes and neglected to also consider how to manage their student loan debt in the process, it all came tumbling down and left the banks on the hook for mortgages that had gone belly-up. So, in the end, student loan debt is now a factor in qualifying for a home loan, and because of my debt load, and the income I’m making, I’m not qualified. Not yet, at least.
Still, Ray and I wanted a new spot, so gears shifted, and wheels turned even more.
I started looking at the rentals in our town, and had to take about a week or so to deal with the sticker shock. $1500/month for something akin to a run-down box was not unheard of. Or, that kind of money came with a ton of caveats. I knew Ray and I were really interested in finding a pet, so finding a space that allowed for pets was on the top of the list. If we can’t have land and a small farm, the least we could get was a dog and/or cat, right? Page after page after page of listings that offered such things as “easy access to public transport” but no actual parking for our vehicles, or “cats only/no dogs,” or “You’re asking me to pay $2000/mo for what???” kept being my experience. It was frustrating, to put it mildly.
Also, it should be noted, that I really struggled with the idea of accepting that any space we were going to get was at a price that displaced someone else. Especially knowing that that same space five years ago was much more affordable.
Still, I kept looking, and eventually, I found something that was doable.
$1245/mo, one bedroom, established community (not a new construction), a good deal of room in the unit, and very pet friendly. It was also only about a mile away from where we currently live, so not much change with regards to commute time or access to the stores and places we’ve become accustomed to.
Ray and I went and looked at the place, and that day, made the move. We put down a small deposit to hold the space, and just like that, we’ve begun the process of moving into our own apartment. Just like that, our relationship has taken a leap forward, and now, as I’m typing this, I’m about a week out from getting the keys and starting the actual process of resettling.
I’m not going to lie – I’m nervous as hell about all of this. I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that I can actually afford a space like this, at this cost. Memories of carrying the rent on a spot that Nathaniel and I rented in Boston back in 2009 ($1100/mo, in the North End), have been flooding back, and the level of anxiety surrounding that much commitment is a reality. Still, as I constantly check my budget worksheet, all the numbers say, yes, in fact, I can do this. I can afford the rent, to feed myself, and keep all of my other bills paid up in full, and still stash money away. I’ve never trusted math (or my ability to do it), but there it is, in black and white, to remind me.
Ray and I have started the process of furniture shopping, getting a feeling for what each other likes and doesn’t like with regards to design. Some things we agree on, a lot we don’t, so we’ll have to find compromise. The fact is, Ray already owns a one-bedroom-apartment’s about of stuff, so I won’t be starting from absolute zero. Still, I want to have a little say-so in what kinds of things we have in our home. Like the bed. Like the sofa. Like the bookshelves. We’re figuring it out.
We’ve also started the process of finding a pet, and it seems everywhere we look, there’s some gorgeous and lovely creature who would fit really well into our home. It may be a while yet, as we get settled into our new space and figure out new patterns and rhythms, before we adopt a four-legged friend, but crossing that bridge is also happening. It’s a lot to take in, really, and I need to keep pinching myself about it, especially given where I was in my life not very long ago at all.
I still remember the feeling of being trapped in an awful back room of a house I didn’t belong in anymore, jobless, penniless, and starving. I *know* I’m not there anymore, but the idea of all of this newness crashing down around me is still present. It’ll take time, patience, and trust, but I can get used to this. I know I can.
In a week’s time, I’ll have a new home, in my name. I’ll be providing space for us, and not having to rely on Raymond for a roof over my head. I’ll also be able to give him the fiscal room to get his career moving forward and make the changes necessary to facilitate his own growth and development. He’s not used to having someone be generous to him like this, and I fully understand and appreciate that about him. I’m trying to do things that aren’t overt so that he still feels like he’s both contributing equitably to our life, but also doesn’t have to carry the anxiety that comes with monetary commitments. He’s been held back in his life because of his fiscal obligations, and I want to ease that burden for him in any way I can. At last, with this new move, I feel like I can start to do that.
Stay tuned for plenty of photos as we make this mighty leap!