Buoyed in part by the courage of a couple in LA who have made their foreclosure worries public (as well as the fact that, despite the financial shambles they find themselves in, they remain happy and in love), I have decided to come clean publicly too.
Just reading Stephanie Walker’s blog has reassured me. No, everything is not all worked out, and no, we don’t exactly know what we’ll do and whether our home will be stable… but yes, everything is going to be ok. Well, hey, the Internet is not a place I feel comfortable telling this story, but the fact is that no matter how or where the story is told, it’s simply an uncomfortable story. Maybe one person who reads this will feel a little bit more courage in their own life, and the chance for that result makes this effort worth it for me. Here goes.
How do decent people get themselves into a mess like this?
It’s just not in my personality to blame others when I’m having a hard time. Deep inside, I maintain full awareness that I got myownself here. It was not speculators and hedge funds and risky assets that turned toxic… it was me. We made gigantic mistakes that any idiot could have identified.
Our future success was dependent upon these things occurring simultaneously: a) I would find a job immediately after graduating with my master’s degree, b) both of us would retain our full-time employment at all times, c) real estate would never lose value.
Since then, of course, we’ve readjusted our definition of success. And like Stephanie and Bob, we have also redefined happiness. It has much less to do with jobs, credit union balances, and real estate value than we had assumed.
But in order to catch up to that epiphany…. I need to back up and start closer to the beginning. Since my life today was shaped by every moment since I was born, it would be most accurate to go back to January 9, 1970, around 7:26 pm, Pacific Time. Neither of us has time to read all that, so I won’t. However, I still need to back up several years to set the stage properly.
1) Stuck against a ridiculous glass ceiling and dragging my single mom butt through rotating shiftwork in my job as a weather forecaster with the National Weather Service, I decided to leave the job in 2003. Life was like a roller coaster that year. I got married, had surgery for a partial hysterectomy, accepted an invitation to attend University of California Berkeley, went to France for the honeymoon, sold my home that I LOVED for a huge profit and moved into a teensy apartment so that I could be ready to hit the road the moment I was able to go. My husband moved on to Berkeley to begin his PhD and to wait for me.
About right then, my whole world went wonky. I didn’t begin to recover until 2009. Which is recent. Which means I am not yet well.
Listen to this: The guy I married dumped me on our one-year wedding anniversary in February of 2004. Two days later a beloved friend of ours died at age 24. That same weekend, California courts said that if I chose to leave town to go to a University then they would award primary custody of my daughter to her recovering crack addict father.
(Can you hear the brakes of life skreeeettching to a halt?!)
2) So, I enrolled in a local community college to earn an Associate in Science and an Associate in Arts while I dedicated myself full time to the insane California Family Law court system and to being the parent I had always wanted to be, but couldn’t previously, because of the rotating shift work inherent to the field of weather forecasting. I bagged the Berkeley idea because I no longer wanted to be anywhere near that guy. I accepted an invitation to attend Brandeis University instead, which was about as far away from all the misery of California as I could get. And then I asked for a one-year deferred enrollment so that I could work out my personal life and decide whether or not to move to Boston. Bite Me, California Family Law Courts: I will take charge of this despite you!
(Keep in mind I’m leaving all the details about personal life catastrophe out, but there are CHAPTERS I could write on what it was like to live through that. My intent is only to set the stage for financial meltdown.)