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A Life-Changing Moment
Story Teller : Susan D Smith
Victims of the 2008 Great Recession, we were forced to foreclose on our home and move to seven years in a scary ghetto neighborhood to get back on our feet. For the purposes of telling this story is just to know that we spent a full ten years in no-kidding painful poverty: hunger, food banks, charity, cold, overwork, unemployment, injury, crime, collections, suffering, embarrassment, near-homelessness.
We dreamed of moving to Florida. We loved our honeymoon there, and hoped to one day retire there, and leave behind a city that over thirty years we had both come to despise. But I need to get the gas service turned back on first.
Slowly, painfully, with a great deal of work and determination and too much time, we crawled out of our financial pit. The foreclosure fell off our credit reports. Our FICO improved. There was a little money in the bank. We tentatively applied for and received approval on a mortgage prequalification. I wept.
We discussed where to shop for real estate. I loved my job and it was the highest salary I had ever earned. We had absolutely no other ties to our hated home town but I was reluctant to quit. So we shopped for real estate, and discovered that all we can afford are fixer-uppers. We spent a year, casually shopping without finding anything that wowed us, and every month in the ghetto meant more money squirreled away.
Then I got a new management team at my job and suddenly the job I loved, not so much. I worried that I’d be pushed out. I asked for remedial trading and didn’t get it. It didn’t feel good.
After a decade of near-starvation and near-homelessness, there was enough cash that I felt comfortable booking a week in Orlando. And if I’m gonna lose my job, I’ll be damned if I’m gonna lose my first vacation benefits in a decade. If they’re gonna let me go, I’m going on vacation first. I prepaid everything, nonrefundable, to keep costs down. Because at that point I’d had plenty of training in keeping costs down.
Three weeks before our flight I received an upsetting email from my supervisor. I asked for a Friday morning appointment to discuss my future. She ignored me. No meeting, no advice.
I went home that Friday afternoon and told my husband that it is time to start looking for another job in earnest. Then I opened the Friday afternoon mail to discover our eviction letter. My slumlord had sold my ghetto shack and gave us 100 days to get out.
We called a Florida realtor and a mortgage broker on Monday. Three weeks later we gave up Wednesday’s prepaid Disney tickets to spend all day looking at properties. We could afford a lot more house in Florida; no fixer-uppers. We bid on two and went back to our vacation. On Friday, 24 hours before our return flight, our realtor called to say a seller had accepted; come sign.
After we’d signed the contract, we asked our realtor to recommend a restaurant where locals go. Because the ink wasn’t dry yet, but we are no longer Florida tourists.
We left our realtor to drive to the restaurant, but we made a pit stop at the beach, three miles from the home we had just purchased. I left my shoes in the car and walked barefoot in the sand, hand-in-hand with my husband. For a few minutes, we both just stood in silence, looking at the ocean. Then I said,
”Did we do what I think we just did?”
”Yep, we did.”
I was quiet for another minute. Then I wiggled my toes in the sand.
”Is this the rest of our lives?”
”Yep, I think so.”
Then he kissed me, and our lives were changed forever.
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