When I got to work this morning, I reached into my bag to grab something and emerged with a plastic sandwich bag full of brown, liquefied used-to-be-celery sticks. I was so repulsed I actually dropped it on the floor while trying not to gag, resulting in a spirited game of “hey, what’s that brown, mushy stuff in the bag?” But unlike MH370, that was one mystery solved: I’d been scouring the company fridge a few days ago, looking for those celery sticks I’d brought in last week to accompany a container of peanut butter. When they were nowhere to be found, I automatically assumed we had an office celery thief, as unlikely as that seemed. I’m glad my coworkers are honest, but kinda bummed that I never took the celery out of my bag. Decomposition ain’t pretty unless it’s happening in a compost bin.
Even then, it ain’t pretty.
I’ve worked in offices before where food thievery was rampant. Coffee creamer was especially popular. I once covered the bottle I’d brought in with skulls and crossbones and various threats of bodily harm or death if anybody helped themselves to it. This deterred no one. I was about to resort to lacing it with salt or mayo or Ex Lax, but fortunately my position was eliminated just in the nick of time. Whew!
I can’t believe that happened nearly four years ago. My life has changed in so many ways since then. One week ago, I got a message from both my realtor and the title company: they were ready for me to sign the papers to close on my townhouse. This wasn’t exactly a shock – the short sale had been approved a couple of weeks earlier and, despite a last-minute and ultimately fruitless attempt by the buyer to get a few additional monetary concessions, all we needed to do was cross a few ts and dot some is – and yet, in a way, it kinda was. We’d been gone for six weeks, cleaned the place up, and barely given it a second thought. I’d even gone over one final time on my lunch hour, walking around the place, stopping in every room and privately reminiscing. Lots happened there, a mixture of good and bad. But ultimately, it was the first place I ever bought on my own, and represented a new chapter in my life after the divorce. It was always going to be hard to let go. Yet I knew, in the back of my mind, that the place was still technically mine. As long as no papers had been signed and I still had keys, I could go over there any time I wanted. I could in theory even move my furniture back there and decide to stay. Of course, I would never have done that, but the option was there.
And then suddenly, it wasn’t. I left the office early and drove downtown, to a plush office in a tall brick building, where I was given a blue pen to sign away the rights to my townhouse. That was a surreal moment, and as the title agent pushed a parade of papers across the table in my direction with instructions to initial or sign by the X, memories flashed through my mind from the past 8 years. I remembered another plush office in another brick building and another batch of papers awaiting my signature, but this was 2006, and I was taking possession rather than giving it up. The whole thing was bittersweet. And as before, X marked the spot where a new phase in my life was about to begin.
I’m okay, though. Really, I am. I think Tara still worries sometimes that I’ll be filled with regret. If not for her, I’d still be living there. But here’s the thing: I’d still be living there and sinking deeper into debt. I was tens of thousands of dollars upside down in my mortgage, HOA fees were climbing every year, and a special property assessment was the final straw. I had no chance of ever getting out from under that money pit. So, while letting go was hard, the instant it was done I felt a new emotion I hadn’t experienced before: relief. My mortgage is paid off. I’m not tied down anywhere. I have the freedom to go wherever I choose, at any time. And I’m spending a lot less money every month. The last time I went to the townhouse, there was a paper stuck in the door. The HOA fees were going up yet again, thanks to an unexpected increase in property insurance for the condo. Years of mismanagement caught up with them, and a fire last summer was the nail in the coffin. I learned from my (former) neighbor the dues are increasing by $40 a month. That would have killed me; we would have been paying $250 a month in addition to our mortgage payment, which wasn’t even paying down the principal because of a bad loan. Suddenly, our rent seems downright cheap.
And I have to say, the horror stories I’d heard about short sales were grossly exaggerated, at least in my case. Well’s Fargo treated me with courtesy and respect throughout the process, even though I essentially said “screw it” and stopped sending them payments in October. They worked with me to establish a fair market price (I actually think it was too fair), and while the approval process wasn’t the most expedient, it was still measured in weeks rather than months. They wrote off all my debt, and then paid me $3000 in relocation assistance. I wouldn’t have believed this if I hadn’t experienced it myself. If you are on the fence and considering a short sale, my advice would overwhelmingly be, go for it!
So, am I heartbroken over losing my home? Ha. Not at all! My credit may have taken a hit, but in two years the short sale will drop off my record, and Tara and I can focus on buying a new house together. One that will truly be ours.
And that’ll be the greatest thing in the world…