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Moving house was a nightmare, but it helped me to find myself

Moving house was a nightmare, but it helped me to find myself

In every dream home, there’s room for a new beginning.

"Perhaps being a single male without formal employment disinclines good fortune in the house-letting world. I felt I was fighting an uphill battle."

In every dream home, there’s room for a new beginning.

When I started my search for a new home in November last year, I was dumbfounded by some of the adverts I saw online.

Properties kept popping up – “Available 1 December”. Who on earth leaves such a momentous undertaking to the last minute?

What type of person or family would move, lock, stock, and barrel, into a long-term dwelling with just a week’s notice? 

The move loomed in the distant future. For the past two years I had been cohabiting with my ex-wife and two teenage children in a grand social experiment.

She, the ex, had boldly suggested we pool our resources and move into a bigger home together, rather than our two small flats, unsuitable and disruptive to the lives of our children, and ourselves.

Remarkable what a combined income could do! We’d find somewhere our son would benefit from a steady base, helping his effort to pass matric.

Somewhere our daughter, dislocated from attending different schools in different countries, could find some rhythm and stability. 

The house we found was perfect. Now, both kids could walk to school. The son got his matric, the daughter flourished, and the project hurtled towards its predetermined expiry date.

We would all move on and go our separate ways – she to boarding school, he into the world to seek his fortune, the ex to resume studies and into her old flat. And me?

The horizon was wide open. I would be on my own again. Well, I had a dog, at least.     

I had plenty of time. I would be comforted by knowing where I was going. I set the various property websites to send me alerts, and they cascaded in.

My criteria were broad, my budget reasonable, my tastes appropriately unrefined.

I began to look in earnest about three months before the end of Feb deadline, feeling my way into the strange cycle of the rental market, the patchy communication channels, the estate agents complaining of how busy they were, the arcane and unspoken rules of who from a list of applicants would be chosen.  

Soon I realised my criteria were actually narrow, and my budget unreasonable. I lost out on a place I wanted. I adjusted. A trickle. Then nothing.

Well, nothing I liked. Nothing that “spoke to me”. Then, another place. I wrote a sterling application and didn’t even make the shortlist.

Perhaps being a single male without formal employment disinclines good fortune in the house-letting world. I felt I was fighting an uphill battle.   

I looked at many flats and houses, and while it wasn’t a total waste of time, and helped me establish more clearly what I was looking for, some of the places were vacant for a reason, which had not appeared in the ad.

I realised I needed a plan B, because plan A wasn’t working. So, I did find a place, slightly too expensive, slightly too suburban (the kind of place you need to drive to somewhere if you need to buy milk). And available a month too late.

But a solid place, with space for the kids when they come visit, and dog-friendly. “No matter,” I thought, “I can camp with mates and stay on a friend’s farm”.

I’d be calling in a lifetime’s worth of favours, but what could I do? I was doing my best. 

I was being pressurised to sign the lease. The landlady started acting up, saying that she wanted to keep the garage for her own storage. Hmmm.

I had 13 days to go, then 12. I was collecting boxes and packing books, throwing things away, wrapping up glasses, negotiating storage space. 11, 10…     

And then the ad popped up. Available 1 March. Now who on earth would… wait, hang on. A perfect little house brimming with love, near the sea, slightly out of town. This was me.

A place where I could put my own needs first, for once in my life. I called the agent. She was driving. No matter. I called again 20 minutes later. And gently insisted on coming to look that day.

Because all my ducks were in a row by now, I zapped all my documentation over that evening and prayed that I would accept whatever happened. Because this new place, I really, really wanted.

And then the miracle happened, the one my friends had said would happen all along. With six days to go, I was approved! I signed the lease and began the move.   

My dear brother helped me, just the two of us. It feels like I am coming over the hill now, in my life.

After years of struggle and compromise, adjusted expectations, and a lot of work, it feels like the sun has emerged to shine on the mountain grasses around me, lighting my path.

Ahead lie many more obstacles and challenges, but hey, it’s said that if the path you’re on has no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.

I’m grateful that in this move, late in my life, I seem to have found myself, at long last.        

Sean O'Connor

Change expert, Sean O'Connor, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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