We buy a house in the West

Our income situation is about to get serious. We’ve obtained a surprise opportunity to take a house loan and are in the process of buying a house. That is fantastic!

Actually, we’ve drifted in a purgatory of uncertainty for weeks and wouldn’t have got this chance without the excellent help from several great professionals who I warmly recommend. Just not on this blog due to anonymity.

Goodbye to our landlord’s deep pockets

We wanted to buy a house because we pay a high rent where we live, and higher every year. We love the location of our small, old, mouldy flat: a relaxed, somewhat scruffy non-posh beach suburb, but all those rent money go out the window and into the evil Landlord’s deep pockets.

So while we scramble to make ends meet we don’t build up any capital, and time flies. If we stay here we’ll most likely be in precisely same situation 10 years down the track, just 10 years older. We’ll be in our 50s 10 years from now. I guess that is why people buy houses – to have something to hold on to as they get old.

Land of the Westies

We will now become Westies, because the new suburb is of course far out west where anyone who isn’t rich move out when they want to buy property. So ‘hoorah’ – we’ll help boost the booming western suburbs statistics.

The west connects to the city via the regional traffic corridor with its peak hour traffic mayhems, kms of spooky tunnel and crowded fast-food oases. The cultural side of the west consists of shopping malls, McDonalds’ and other consumption empires – places where I’d never go. So culturally, it will be even more like living on an alien planet. However:

Yard with strong roots

The house is fantastic because we get our own shielded yard. We even get our own tree – tall, impressive, aged, it hovers over the yard like a friendly giant. When I saw the tree and put my hand on its stem, I felt like it had missed us for aeons. Here we are!

There is a lovely terrace for our family meals and outdoor home offices, and a nice open kitchen with wooden floorboards. The house is small, but we didn’t even look at the rooms before making up our minds. The yard is perfect!

Our little road is calm and quiet, out of the way from major traffic ores. It is on the edge of bushland with glimpses to the mountains, and far from the ocean of course. There will be no morning ocean swims and runs along the coast. Instead, I will run on dirt roads in bushland. We’ll get one more dog -bigger – to make me feel safer while my husband works overseas more often to pay for the house.

Landing on Planet Mortgage

Property ownership is a strange new world to us. Hearing about mortgage payments was always like hearing about starving kids in Africa – a tragic, but reassuringly distant and surreal reality. Now it is here, we are in it. We have a mortgage; it owns our home!

Mortgage owns all these lives stuck in their cars in the M5 traffic corridor every day, flowing to and from work, jammed whenever the stream stops. And I am so happy this finally happened to us. We’ll have a yard and a big tree and a sense of ownership, independence and maturity. We will become more human.

We did of course study the step by step house buying procedure and learned new words such as cooling-off period, settlement date, first home buyer’s grant and mortgage insurance. We were in meetings with the real estate agent, the bank’s home loan consultant and the solicitor. Now I know what a solicitor is. I still feel like I am on an alien planet in an avatar body, pretending to be local in corporate attire; amazed that it works. The loan has been unconditionally approved. The settlement process is on track. We have a house. Wow. We’ll officially own a piece of the Earth. And we own a tree! (which is probably much older than us!).

Money, money, money

This is where it becomes serious: houses are not free. We will in fact, when we finish paying off the loan, have paid for one more house in interest charges alone, more expensive than the house we actually buy. That is how the world of mortgage works.

We can in principle repay the loan with my husband’s income alone, but it would be extremely unfair – and risky: a small accident, a dental visit or vet emergency could tip us off the narrow path of monthly repayments. I do as much freelance work as I can get my hands on, but it is not enough. I must get a job.

There are heaps of so called easy job that would make my life Hell – jobs in beeping, whizzing, bustling environments, jobs where one is required to juggle many balls in the air at once, be a big smile on the phone, find places (I get lost anywhere), chat with boring co-workers and mingle in crowds. Fast paced, superficial, social jobs that are supposed to be easy are the worst.

However, there are sure menial jobs I can handle, for example cleaning and elderly care. I have lived from that type of jobs before. That was back in my home country where dirty work is better paid. Still, a small secure income every month is better for bill-payments than patchy, unpredictable sums that may or may not materialise.

The pride barrier

Pride is a barrier too. Since I now have a master degree, going back to working in crappy unskilled jobs does make me feel like a failure. And the value of my education erodes all the time I don’t use it.

At least the risk of running into former co-students in the West is low, because they are presumably busy nurturing their blooming business careers in big cities.


Business presentation

Imaginary former classmate shows what needs to be done.

Hopefully this blog can help me overcome barriers. It lets me turn crappy jobs into stories. It’ll help me to feel like a cultural anthropologist who investigates obscure corners of industries rather than just a fed up cleaning assistant. I already do it all the time – observe, analyse, shape and tell. Maybe that is what I am meant to do.

After all, who am I to think that I ought to know my career destination? Hardship converts to meaning every day, curses turn out to be blessings in disguise over time. Blessings turn out to be curses. I trust it all makes sense in the big puzzle that is life, even if I don’t know precisely how.





15 thoughts on “We buy a house in the West

  1. Lori Degtiarev

    Congratulations! I am happy and excited for you! We lived in New Mexico, one of the poorest states in America. Homes were very affordable and my hubby felt very much that paying rent was throwing money out the window. Buying a home is wonderful and very stressful.

    Oddly, I enjoyed all the packing and organizing. I thrive on the details. the hardest part was moving in. With out dedicated places for commonly used things I spent 3/4 of my time running around in circles looking for stuff.

    I was moved by your references to jobs. I have one completed degree (clinical psychology) and was a sememster away from Electrical Engineering and Math degrees. Industrial Engineering and Statistics degrees were a little over a year away.

    I could go to school forever. Working, however, I fail. I am taking off time to raise our son, but one day I will return to work. Thus, I adore this:

    “It lets me turn crappy jobs into stories. It’ll help me to feel like a cultural anthropologist who investigates obscure corners of industries rather than just a fed up cleaning assistant. I already do it all the time – observe, analyse, shape and tell. Maybe that is what I am meant to do. ”

    What a fabulous idea. I will take this with me.


    1. Mados

      Thank you for contributing with your own experiences Lori! And I am very happy to inspire you.

      Your hubby is wise with not wasting money on rent… it is best to take the step as early as possible and get out of the renting cycle.

      For me, the sense of freedom and empowerment is central. It is strange & fantastic to get to own land & plants & insects whatever is there and be able to shape the landscape (~ yard). To be outdoor & home at the same time! I love to be outdoor and I prefer to be home (which currently means indoor), – so being home outdoor is perfect. I even think we should we sleep in tent in the yard to begin with to enjoy the outdoor space. It is summer… – Why be indoor at all?!

      I look very much forward to organise this, pack & move. However, I also know that it will land me in a bit of a change-crisis, although I can’t imagine it right now. I will be stressed out not knowing where to put things, not be able to do all the things we are used to, be in strange new surroundings … ‘Damage control’ is the key there… Knowing that uncertainty is a natural part of a new beginning, and eventually life will settle in a new way and we’ll develop new great habits & routines that fit our new area.


      1. Lori Degtiarev

        “It is strange & fantastic to get to own land & plants & insects whatever is there and be able to shape the landscape (~ yard). ‘

        Oh yes! When we lived in NM I could do little else but move rocks around and plant odd cacti. A home is a canvas, albiet a sometimes expensive one!

        Additionally, creatures are even more captivating when they visit your yard! nothing is better than watching your own personal bird and lizard show!


    2. Mados

      Work: it is great to hear that I am not the only to fail at work… although of course it isn’t nice:-) Since you are well educated too (to say the least), very resourceful and clearly a smart person, it is strangely encouraging to know … it makes me feel more normal:-)

      Clinical psychology, engineering, math and statistics sounds like heavy weight studies in somewhat opposite directions … Did you study these fields only out of interest , or did you also imagine that they would lead to a career?

      It sounds like a very good choice (and probably the only viable one;-) to take the time to stay home and raise your son. I don’t understand how parents are able to juggle career & parenting in the same time. Maybe they aren’t… I suspects that work-life balance is just a myth.

      I would also like to ask… When/if you return to work, which work do you think you will try to return to? What do you find to be the biggest barriers and work failure-triggers?

      And is getting a job (e.g. job interviews) a major hurdle – or is coping with work the greatest challenge?

      My apologies if I am being too nosy! Please let me know if that is so (I take feedback very positively).

      The topic is just very relevant to me, and this online communication medium is a fantastic opportunity to get better insight and perspectives. It thrills me to learn that I am not the only well educated & resourceful person in the world who find it difficult to fit into workplaces. So I am very curious.


      1. Lori Degtiarev

        About careers-
        I chose engineering and mathematics because I had a talent for them. My parents strongly encouraged me to pursue these fields of study for a career. At the time, that was good enough. I did not have the insight to realize that aptitude does not equal interest.
        If my life events changed, say, I became ill or had relationship trouble, I would lose my problem solving ability. While my peers could chug through a physics exam with a cold, I failed, because I was distracted by humming lights or the person shifting in the seat next to me.
        I could solve complex problems best in quiet environments, under low stress conditions.
        I switched to psychology because it was “easy.” I found it interesting and I could ace any exam, despite internal or external stresses. Psychology work at that level was largely wrote work. Sick or not, I could easily remember pages of text and theories.
        I, too, have never understood how anyone could raise a child while working. Yet, I see it all the time. I see mothers and children in this situation thrive. My mother stayed home with me so it was a natural choice. I am in awe of women with multiple children, who can balance work and home. Thankfully, I know my limitations.
        Concerning work-
        My biggest barrier is long term resistance to stress. Although I tie myself in knots over interviews, I can hold it together to make it through. People like my “energy.” My energy translates into productivity in a work environment, but my ability to problem solve diminished with stress. I collapse from exhaustion after long periods of stress/productivity, primarily due to extended insomnia. What works best for me is to find a no-stress job. Just like psychology was an easy degree, an easy job is the way to go.
        So what is an easy job for me? Work that involves minimal peer interaction and organizing things. My brain can do differential equations, but my nerves like filing papers and cleaning things. I’d love to work in a library or in a quiet laboratory. Graphic design would be wonderful. I will consult with an Asperger’s life coach before going back to work.
        I should mention that interpersonal issues sneak up on me. I was the last to find out about office politics/issues at work. Also, criticism mortified me, because I was oblivious to having offended others. People often treated me like a fool, because of my lagging social skills. This was hurtful. I would never be unkind to someone for their lack of mathematical skills.
        Ultimately, you work for money and you hope to find meaning in that experience. The meaning sustains you when you have difficulties. I left work when too much was being taken from me. Raising my son is extraordinarily demanding, but the meaning is implicit. Finding a perfect job is hard to do, so I think of the type of job I can do well.

        I hope this helps.


        1. Mados

          It does help! Very much so, thanks a lot for contributing with your experience! I am brewing with an answer.

          – and some possible new blog posts inspired by this discussion. Blogging has turned out to be amazingly inspiring due to the exchange of experiences, online relationship building and mutual value-adding across blogs.


        2. Mados

          It sounds to me like you are an energetic and productive person who is very sensitive to impacts from your surroundings – sensory distractions and changes, stress and inter-personal conflicts… and that inevitably, eventually the friction ends up consuming all your energy and leaves you drained.

          Plus, the inability to concentrate on complex mathematical problem solving when exposed to physical or mental stress (I guess that is part of the same issue, anyway).

          It also strikes me that you seem to have a spectrum of skills that don’t usually go together. Typically, people who are good with math and engineering aren’t talented with visual style, human insights or creative communication*. Objects designed by engineers tend to be functional, not stylish, for example..

          Based on the impression of your blog I would have guessed your background to be e.g. graphic design, architecture, journalism, artistic production or psychology – because you show a great interest in & flair for seeing and making sense of others’ perspectives (mainly your son’s!) and present it as visually appealing stories.

          *Here is a lovely exception from the math/engineer stereotype: the xkcd cartoon beautifully combines hard science passion with psychological insights.


        3. Mados

          What you write here strikes a note with me:

          I should mention that interpersonal issues sneak up on me. I was the last to find out about office politics/issues at work. Also, criticism mortified me, because I was oblivious to having offended others. People often treated me like a fool, because of my lagging social skills. This was hurtful.

          It sounds painfully familiar. Workplace politics and interpersonal confusion are big worries for me, probably the biggest barrier. Especially the ‘sneaky’ aspect is terrifying. Workplaces are unpredictable, potentially intimidating social minefields.

          I’ve learned to spot the warning signs of a ‘dangerous’ organisational culture: high absence rates, high staff turnover, powerful social cliques, gossip and weak leadership. ‘Female’ workplaces are the worst.


          I was once surprise sacked for ‘cooperation problems’ in a casual job where I worked full time due to high staff absence rates. As far as I was concerned, I got well along with everybody and had not been in conflict with anyone. There wasn’t much ‘co-operation’ in the role at all; it was not teamwork. I just did what I was told and kept to myself.

          The workplace was an institution for non-verbal autistic teenagers. It consisted of ‘houses’ with each two separate sections with three clients + two staff at work at any time. The job was to manage either one difficult or two less difficult clients for eight hours (1:1 or 1:2), or ‘night guard’ one house (1:6) overnight with access to an emergency phone to guards in other houses.

          The day before I got sacked I was urgently rescheduled to an infamously difficult client. She was heading into one of her dreaded tantrums (infamously lasting 4+ hours or more of nerve-wrecking relentless screaming) in protest against the long term casual that had been allocated to her. But she liked me, and immediately calmed down when told they had rescheduled me to take over.

          I took the incidence as a sign that I was doing really well because I could be inserted urgently to handle a difficult client and prevent a situation that would have troubled everybody.

          However: the next day, Saturday, the manager phoned me at home to come into her office urgently. There she told me that ‘everybody had complained about me’ and that the complaints regarded cooperation. It was so bad that she had been called late Friday night to solve it in the weekend, and she had cancelled my entire work schedule (full time 3 weeks forward), so I was suddenly out of work with no income.

          I was shocked and first couldn’t say anything. Then I asked why no one had told me they were upset with me – everybody had been friendly, and there had been no conflicts. The manager said: ‘it can be very hard for people to say such things directly. The house is very sensitive and the staff absence rate is high already, so I have to take complaints very seriously’. She also said that some people had the impression that I was laughing of them behind their backs (??!).

          After the meeting I went down in the house and asked a casual guy I trusted if he could explain what happened. He said that I had been ‘bullied’ for at least two weeks behind my back. He said it wasn’t true that ‘everybody’ had complained but there had been sort of a mood against me, and people were ridiculing many small things I did and wrote in the journals e.t.c.

          I asked if he had any idea what I did wrong, and he said that he thought it was because I was ‘mysterious’ and kept to myself… my behaviour triggered people’s imagination. He also said ‘I don’t know why they target you and not me, because I stick to myself too … but it is probably because you are a woman. A guy can get away with being mysterious, a woman can’t.’ (Staff in the institution: around 90% women)

          Actually I think he explained it really well, and he was a very cool guy. He also phoned the manager while I was there and questioned her statement that ‘everybody had complained’ about me. He said to her: ‘Please do never lie about me again!’

          Above is the most extreme ‘sneaky’ interpersonal incident I’ve experienced but far from the only one. The big stress factor is the lack of information. People tend to hide discontent and do not tell how they feel until friction has grown & spread through gossip, and suddenly a social cumulonimbus looms in the horizon…


          1. Lori Degtiarev

            That sounds awful. Very confusing and troubling.

            You make a very good point. Female dominated workspaces are much harder to navigate. I think part of it is the expectation that you should undersatnd the workplace subtext.

            Part of understanding subtext is being motivated. I can see being motivated to calm a distressed client, or to show up on work on time. I can’t see the motivation of office politics, becoming involved in tiny interpersonal details. It is just not in the job description!

            Perhaps poor management is the culprit. Nevertheless, something was seriously wrong in the organization. It is good to keep track of your observations–it can help you and other avoid bad work situations.


  2. Aspergirl Maybe

    What a huge step – congratulations! The yard and quiet little road sound wonderful, and I hope that you will find a solution to your work situation that will fulfill both the financial obligation and your personal needs.


  3. Clarence

    Congratulations. I hate uncertainty (but then again, who doesn’t). I’m glad things are turning out well for you. Next step…work. We’re on the same boat in that aspect so I wish the best for both of us. 😀

    Thanks for visiting my blog!



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