It was my dream! How do you leave that behind?
When I was 3 years old, my parents divorced. My mom packed us up and moved us from place to place. I was that kid who moved around all the time, who literally attended five different elementary schools. You could say that I knew what it was like being the new kid on the block.
It was a pattern I did not want to repeat with my own children. My plan was to raise them in a “forever” house.
The forever house was a beautiful concept to me.
We all know someone who spent their whole life in one house. Either their parents still live there, or they bought it from their parents. And it’s this gorgeous, proper house, with lots of bedrooms, plenty of space, a lovely yard, and amazing neighbors. (And they bought it so long ago that the amount of appreciation and equity they have in the house now is staggering! The children are set for inheritances!)
My ex and I were fortunate because were able to buy one of these spectacular forever homes: a 3,000+-square-foot architectural on the hills of Brentwood. It was gorgeous and everything I ever dreamed of with an open floor plan, 11-foot ceilings, large spaces, four bedrooms, plus a huge playroom, and plenty of outdoor space. There was even room for a pool, if we ever desire to have one.
I was in love. Life was sublime … until one day when it wasn’t anymore.
My ex and I got a divorce when the children were 7 and 5 years old. In lieu of alimony, I fought tooth and nail to keep my “forever” house. I struggled for two years, paying the mortgage on time, and watching as my savings dwindled away. But, in my head, I knew it wasn’t smart choice financially; I was suffering under the weight of this house, and it wasn’t good for anyone.
I had to come to terms with letting my house go. Not a remotely easy thing to do. It was my dream, my promise — to myself and to my children, to NOT move them around. It was my “forever” house … the one I thought I would ultimately die in. Of all the places I’d lived, this was the home I’d been in the longest.
I struggled with what I should do. Many dark nights were filled with tears.
Sometimes, I would lay on the floor of my children’s rooms and just weep (as quietly as possible). My heart broke at the thought of leaving.
But one day, my perspective changed. I decided that I was going to stop feeling sorry for my children and myself, and instead feel grateful that I’d had the honor and the privilege to live in such a beautiful place, even if it was a far shorter time than I had planned.
I walked around my house, gave myself time to appreciate its beauty, its craftsmanship, and recalled the happy times I spent with my family in each room. Out loud, I said “thank you” to my house. I cried tears of joy mixed with sadness. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion.
I had no regret about taking my house in lieu of alimony. Doing so allowed me independence and I was able to sell my home on my terms and my timeline. I saw my house as as a means of financial freedom from my ex. When I ultimately sold it, I was able to walk away with a chunk of cash that I could then invest on my own, supporting my two children and myself.
Slowly and carefully, I allowed myself to feel my emotions so I could move forward. I wrote in a journal for 40 days straight, just to get my feelings out. I enlisted the help of a friend to go with me and see the rentals first, examining them before taking my kids. He offered a shoulder to cry on when reality hit home that I would be living in one of these “temporary” abodes.
Saying goodbye is challenging. Divorce is heart wrenching. Moving is stressful. And, putting a dream to rest is overwhelming. Combine all these and it’s too much for one person to experience all at once.
Crying helped and having support was my lifeline. As a realtor, I knew the real estate market, and that was an unbelievable blessing.
Eventually, I found the place I was looking for: a large condo in the heart of Brentwood. The location allowed me and my kids to walk everywhere. I chose it for its novelty, and so I wouldn’t feel all alone when my children were off with their father. It was affordable, convenient, and easy — plus there was a pool, hot tub and ping-pong table!
I was apprehensive when I took my kids to see it. My son, in particular, loved our old house, and was so upset about the idea of moving. To my surprise and relief, he LOVED the condo, and told me after the showing that we should move there.
It turns out, we were happy in our condo. We lived there for 15 months, which gave me time to regroup. It was indeed easy living. We walked, swam, hit countless ping-pong balls, and laughed a lot. I won’t gloss over the fact that I missed my house. I longed for my own place, my pond, my yard, and life up in the hills. But the condo gave me the time and space to heal, and to realize that my kids and I were going to be OK.
We loved being together. And I was proud of myself for facing, and embracing reality.
Today, I’m a homeowner once again. I live in a slightly smaller version of my first “forever” house. Built the same year, 1959, it was a mid-century architectural, with slightly lower ceilings, but a much larger piece of property. The house is not in Brentwood, I couldn’t afford that, but it’s in a location that I’ve learned to love — in the hills of Sherman Oaks. Our neighbors are fabulous, and we’ve got a nature preserve right behind our house, where I go hiking with my dogs.
Truly, I’ve never been happier in a house. Life is funny that way.
I won’t say it’s my “forever” house, because I don’t want to tempt fate. But I will say that it’s a dream come true, and I’m forever grateful.