This has been a year.
Our current situation has 7 dogs, 2 rats and 2 people in a 1200 square foot apartment in the city. Our goal was 6 dogs, 2 rats and 2 people in a 2000+ square foot one house in the burbs. You can see where we fell a bit short.
We had been in our house 6 years when we decided to put it on the market and purchase a bigger house with more land for the dogs. We were specific in what we wanted: ranch or split, big fenced in yard, pool, only cosmetic work needed. The must-have list was short but absolute, however we were confident we would find what we wanted in a reasonable time frame. After all, we weren’t newbs — we had danced to this beat before.
We put our cute little colonial up for sale in February, and 3 days after the open house we accepted an offer. Joyous! Everyone who’s played the real estate game before knows that the most important thing is to secure a buyer — you can’t move forward until you do. So we quickly checked that one off and we were on our way to finding our new home within the 60 day agreed upon time before closing.
It was around day 30 when my husband got laid off. As a full time student, I make no money. I make less than no money, actually, since I also have to pay for school. So at the moment our entire income is supported by his job alone. Which meant that when he got laid off we had no income. Which meant we then could no longer qualify for a mortgage.
Worse, is that we did not have a “contingent upon us finding suitable housing”clause in the Purchase and Sale of our home, which meant we had to sell no matter what. No matter if we had no place to go to, no matter if my husband lost his job, no matter if I got run over the next day. We had to vacate our home in 30 days or the buyers could sue us.
Options? Stay with my mom and her dogs — an hour+ away from our lives, my job and school, but at least we’re not living in a card board box under the overpass. Another option was to stay with his parents and their dogs, also over an hour away from everything, but also not a card board box under the overpass. Being over an hour away wasn’t ideal, but at least we had 2 places we could go and we’d be with family either way. Besides our family, a couple of very generous if not insane friends offered up their homes as well. The problem really was the dogs — the amount of dogs and their personalities. But of course, we are a family and we had to find housing for our ENTIRE family. It’s all or nothing.
By some stroke of luck, or fate, or magic, or I don’t even know, one of our friends happened to have recently purchased a two family in the city that needed renovations. It was vacant. It was close by. It had a yard. By God, it even had a driveway. (If you’ve lived in the city you know how precious a driveway is!) Our friend would renovate one floor while we occupied the other, affording us time to get back on our feet. It was a prayer answered, if you believe in that stuff.
So we rented a storage unit and hauled all of our not so important stuff away in boxes. We hired a moving company and took only what we needed to the apartment. We said good bye to our first home, to the city where we planted roots, to the good memories and the bad. We set up shop in the apartment, figured things out, and continued our search for the perfect home.
House hunting is akin to online dating: you have to kiss a lot of frogs until you find your prince. And we kissed plenty of frogs, believe you me. Houses where the cigarette smoke permeated into the walls, where parts of the house had no heat, houses with extreme water damage, houses we literally walked in and walked right back out. It got to be where if we pulled up to a house and didn’t immediately see something we liked, we drove away. It was disappointing still, but at least we didn’t have to get out of the car and shove our way through a throng of people. That was the other frustrating thing about house hunting: the other potential buyers at the open houses. There were just so many of them, they were sucking the air out of the room. They were rude, they were grabby, they were just fucking everywhere I wanted to be. One time a family tried to block the entrance to an open house, and when my husband asked them politely to step aside they said, “We really like this house.” Oh you, bless your heart little first time home buyer heart.
While we house hunted, we also took in a hospice foster from MSPCA Nevins. Logan, a 4 year old Boston Terrier, was surrendered to the shelter as the owner’s could no longer afford his care. Logan had Lymphoma, likely GI Lymphoma, and was given maybe weeks to months to live. My friends at the shelter alerted me to him, and soon after he came to his forever home. We got a good 6 weeks with Logan, we even started chemo, but unfortunately the cancer was too strong and we had to say good bye.
In the meantime between house hunting and sobbing over my good Logan boy, I had finals, I had an externship, I had summer classes, and I had work. The externship, summer classes and work lead to 50 hour weeks for about 7 weeks. I don’t even know how I got dressed in the morning. Yeah, I know there are plenty of people out there who put in regular 50 hour weeks, my problem was the emotional drainage from working in an animal hospital, and then 9 hours of microbiology every week, and then coming home to my family who still needed my attention and love, and then all the homework and studying I had to do. Somehow I made room for my husband, the dogs, my sisters, my mother, my friends, and lastly myself. Caregivers are always putting their needs last, that’s what makes them so invaluable, but it’s also what causes them to burn out faster than a gasoline fire on top of dry birch bark.
I burned out. And then the anxiety kicked in:
“I’m not good enough.”
“I should just give up.”
“What was I thinking, going to school, pursuing my dream? I have no time for this.”
“I’m letting my family down.”
“I will never feel happiness again.”
“I will always be an anxious person.”
“I will never get it together, might as well bow out now before I make a fool out of myself.”
If you’ve never experienced crippling anxiety, you’d have no idea how damaging negative self talk can be. It will send you into a spiral, it will haunt you, it will consume every waking minute and penetrate your dreams. Eventually, you would do anything to stop the internal pain. It’s just crushing.
I hadn’t talked to my therapist in over a year, and once I broke down from mental exhaustion — the house, school, work, emotional demands, my own perfectionism, a bout with severe food poisoning while we didn’t have health insurance because hey why not — I decided I had better try and get myself together. I had a goal, I still have this goal, to be a CVT. It’s pretty much all I’ve ever wanted out of life besides winning the lottery! I was getting in my own way, however, and on top of it all I had piled my plate sky high with outside demands.
It has taken a lot of personal work but I am finally in a better place. It also helps that I’m done with my externship and summer classes, which means all I have to do is work. I love my job, I love the people I work with, I love my clients and my patients, so when I work it’s not a chore. In some pleasantly surprising way it’s relaxing: I run best in chaos (I know that’s hard to believe!) and a veterinary hospital has chaos in spades.
We came to the apartment with 6 dogs, we had 7 for a time with Logan, and now we have 7 again. The 7th is a new foster puppy. Because I’m insane. Because his face was just too cute. Because I believe in animal rescue. Because his life matters — to me, and to the lucky family that adopts him.
Despite the obvious craziness in my life this month, it’s a comforting sort of crazy. Being back with my work peeps and my rescue peeps feels easy compared to house hunting and homework.
My husband eventually found another job, as I knew he would. He’s very smart, talented and probably most importantly well liked and connected, so if his layoff had happened at any other time I would not have been an ounce of worried. Of course it happened in the middle of our mortgage application, but that’s how we roll.
And finally, at long last, after such an arduous journey, after loss, we found our house. It was worth the wait, of course, but in the thick of it you can’t see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This house is everything we’ve wanted and at a great price. The dogs will have a nice big yard to run in, my husband will have his man cave, I will have my office/creative/ready room, and we’ll both have the nice big functional kitchen we’ve always wanted. Did I mention pool?
T-minus 2o days till closing. We’re scheduling the movers, the painter, and the pool guy. We’ve started packing up anything in the apartment that we can and trying to get rid of any surplus that didn’t get cut in the first round. We’re excited, we’re eager, we’re ready for our next chapter.
School starts up again for me September 6th, and I only have 2 semesters left (knock on wood!) until I graduate. This fall I’m taking Chemestry, A&P, Exotic Animal Medicine, Animal Disease and Veterinary Office Management. If I can just focus on the horizon and stop tripping over tiny pebbles in my way I’ll be just fine. I know I can do it, I know I’m worth it, I know I’m going to be amazing someday. I know this, I just need to believe it. I need to believe in myself.
…But rises again, harder and stronger.