Today is the closing date for the sale of my house in Vancouver.
Yesterday I signed the last of the documents with the notary public and dropped off the last of the keys with the realtor, and apparently Monday I should see the mortgage accounts disappear from my web banking.
The sale represents both the severing of my biggest physical tie to the sedentary world and the un-shouldering of the single largest source of stress in my my life. My priorities and goals have changed, and while I know that real estate in Vancouver is a sound financial investment in the longer term, I also know that I’m not interested in settling down into a life on land right now. As long as I owned a property I would always have to be a landlord, something that I am neither good at nor enjoy.
The emotional fallout from the sale has been slow to manifest – the house was the last relic of a failed relationship and a terrible downward spiral through the second half of my twenties; a dream that, once achieved, proved to be a huge disappointment. I am incredibly thankful that I was lucky enough to learn reasonably early the folly in living one’s life by others’ ideas of success.
At age twenty-eight, I figured I had won the game – I had a cute, successful fiancée, a great, high-paying job and a gorgeous home studio in my own house. I literally had the proverbial white picket fence! By all conventional logic, I should have been on top of the world, but instead I was falling deeper and deeper into depression. My relationship was failing and I was drinking far too much. I was rapidly becoming overweight and unhealthy. I was miserable at my job, and it showed in my work. Still, when I stepped back and looked at my life, I couldn’t see anything wrong with it! My ambition hit an all-time low – if the game is won, why bother continuing to play?
Fortunately that relationship fell apart in early 2007, and in the very same month the company I worked for was purchased and dismantled by the new owners. We received severance packages and pink slips and I watched, shellshocked, as my world crumbled around me. I spent the next few months fumbling about aimlessly, rented out the upper half the house and moved into the basement, and about a year later I started this blog.
The nearly four years since the collapse of that world has been a period of intense personal growth and discovery, of purging and change, much of which has been documented here. The house was the last reminder of the former life, and selling it has been both exhilarating and terrifying – not only was it a memento and an investment, but also a safety net should this crazy living-on-a-boat adventure turn sour! I think I’ve proven to myself over the past two years the value in trusting my instincts and following my dreams, and I have no intention of stopping now.
As it turns out, personal happiness has very little to do with the ideas portrayed in the movies – everyone knows that once the prince rescues the princess and carries her off into the sunset on horseback, they live “happily ever after”. So why wasn’t my ‘success’ a source of unending joy? Life is defined by struggle, by working toward goals – but when all of those goals are achieved, then what? How many women look as much forward to the six months following their wedding as they do to the wedding itself? What was Ward Cleaver really thinking?
In the past four years I’ve learned many lessons about the pursuit of happiness. I’ve learned to actively appreciate beauty, and that the time and energy spent to experience fleeting moments of intense beauty is not wasted. I’ve learned that while acquiring possessions stimulates a similar part of the mind, real happiness doesn’t require anything material. Most of all though, I’ve learned that happiness is subjective to each person individually, and that it is the sum of emotion and experience. For me, happiness is a combination of freedom, beauty and opportunity.
So! It is official. Apart from six tupperware bins in a storage locker and music equipment and furniture “stored” with friends and family, I have severed my physical ties to the land.
As for what’s next… that post will come soon.