Document of Misery


Thanks to Portlandia for the title inspiration

I’ve met a lot of great people online since I started blogging, and I’ve had some good email conversations about what brought us to the GPT world. A few people had suggested I share some of my own personal story, but I’ve kept putting this off for a variety of reasons. Not enough time, don’t want to over share, want to keep the blog positive, etc.

Also, like many people who’ve been down the unemployment path, I do know that there is a real tendency to blame the victim in this area. Whenever there is a news story about how the recession has impacted someone, you can always count on the comments field to be filled with anonymous posters cutting them down, calling them deadbeats or leeches, and other general jerkish behavior.

However, after a while I thought it might be a good thing, if only for me, to get the story written of how I went from a high earning professional living in the suburbs of a major city, to an unemployed blogger being grateful if I make $300 per month, living thousands of miles away from my family. Maybe someone will identify and not feel so alone, because believe me, I know what a lonely and alienating thing it is. Or if not, at least it will be cathartic to write it all down.

It’s a long story, so I’ll publish bits and pieces during down times. January has always been a slow month for me, so this is probably a good time to get it written out.

To begin, I guess I need to go way back to the mid 90’s, because that’s where this all started. My husband and I were newly married, a second marriage for both of us. Our only debts were a car loan and a school loan, but we knew we needed to buy a house. We had a lot of kids between the two of us, so having the permanent stability of a home was very important to us.

My husband was making good money in his job, and I had just returned to the workforce full time after being a stay at home mom for many years. Between the two of us, we had a comfortable middle-class salary. While we didn’t have a lot of debt, we also didn’t have a lot of cash on hand for a large down payment. Most of the money we made went to various expenses for the kids, as any parent knows. My husband was able to take a loan from his retirement account so we could have cash for the down payment on a house.

At the time we were in the North, where things are much more expensive, housing included. With what we could afford to pay in a mortgage each month, we were faced with two choices – a great house in a not so great area… or a horrible house in a great neighborhood. We looked at various combinations of the previously mentioned.

No, but close.

Finally, we landed on the great neighborhood/horrible house combination. Some of the neighborhoods were just not safe to have kids in, and the schools in them were really substandard.  The house we chose was literally the second least expensive house in the county… and for a good reason. A very, very, very old house, definitely charming, but also horribly in need of work.

We had a home inspection prior to buying, and thought we knew what we were getting in to. The things the inspection brought up seemed to be things we could tackle over the years a little at a time.

We were so, so wrong. To this day, I have absolutely no idea how this house ever passed inspection.

Up next: The Money Pit