I never thought I’d see the day as a first time home buyer. Each month for eight years, I’d make the bus ride to the rental office to save the 20 dollar processing fee, no matter the weather.
I cursed and muttered, wondering again: when will our last day be? When will it be the last day living in a small two-bedroom apartment facing four garbage bins, a nursing home, and tons of street noise?
At that point in our lives, my husband and I could only fantasize about a dream home for our family. Meanwhile, our 10-year-old son started crawling up the walls of our too-small apartment.
“Why can’t we live in a house like all my other friends?” he wailed one day. “Why do we have to be so different?”
For eight years, he longed to build a snowman in the front yard, dig his heels in the soft earth in the spring, and play with the neighborhood children outside until dark.
I answered him, whispering in his ear, “You know we can’t afford it.”
He looked hopelessly at the kitchen floor.
For five long years I was trapped in a cycle of negative self-talk that started one day in 2009, when one of the maintenance men came to fix our ceiling fan. As he bolted the last of the screws, I asked if the management company rented three-bedroom houses. With two kids now, we needed the extra space.
"Yes,” he said. "You mean, like three bedrooms and an extra bathroom?"
He then turned, looked me straight in the eye, and said something totally unexpected. "But those are really expensive. You wouldn't be able to afford it."I thought he was kidding at first, but I could see the intent in his face as he looked directly at me. I tried to avoid choking on the tears. Why would he say such a thing to a complete stranger? For the next three years, my son would repeat those words every time we passed by a charming house for sale in our neighborhood. The words “you can’t afford it” took over not just my life, but his life, too. Each time I expressed how badly I wanted that three-bedroom house, I quickly reminded myself that I was teaching my son lessons in self-worth. Would money be a sticky point for him as it had been for me all these years? Clearly, I had allowed this stranger’s words to determine our family’s reality.
I cried in my pillow at night. I needed to make a change. It was time to break the “poverty mindset” for everyone’s sake. There had to be another way… but how?
I wanted to give my son and now daughter the feeling of a home, not just a rented place. Could it be I was still struggling to feel worthy and deserving of abundance, and teaching my son that abundance is always a struggle?
One day, I took my son aside. “I’ve been lying to myself – and to you – all these years. I’ve been telling myself that we can’t afford our dream house. I’m really sorry. It’s time to break those lies.”
He looked at me as if I'd poured juice over my head.
“You know…our dream home…the one I keep telling you we can’t afford.”
Many of my son’s friends come from wealthy families. We're the only family that lives in an apartment. My son has gradually accepted that fact, but I knew how badly he wanted that home.
On a piece of paper, I wrote down what we'd need for a down payment, and showed him the number.
He looked at the number. “That’s not a lot,” he said stiffly.
“What do you mean that’s not a lot?!”
“Well, it’s not a lot. Why don’t we just save everything and sell anything?”
He was right.
I couldn’t see past the poverty mindset that had started in childhood and emotionally paralyzed me an adult. I wanted to feel free of money worries, and my son believed it was possible. Together, we could break this cycle. We put a plan in place.
Three years later, we had enough for a down payment. I had several jobs, and saved every penny that I could. My son contributed by doing odd jobs in the neighborhood and, each week, dumped a jar of coins on my bed.
In December 2014, our family had to make a decision: would we sign the lease for another year? I took a deep breath and approached my husband. No longer would the hurtful words of a stranger hold me captive.
“There’s no way I’m going to renew our lease for the coming year.” I said, standing up. “It’s time to buy our own place.”
I started to cry.
“What's happening?” my husband asked.
I'd never told him the story of the maintenance man, and how ashamed his words made me feel. It all poured out – a relief to finally be sharing it with my husband, who loved and supported me.
On March 31, 2015, we closed on a three-bedroom house perfectly situated on a quiet street complete with a backyard, garden, deck, and front porch – everything a starter home should have for our children. Our dream house.
On moving day, my son kicked off his flip-flops and dug his feet in the soft grass while my 20-month-old daughter frolicked in the garden. A few days later, I happily took my laptop outside to work, drinking in the smells and sights of spring.
This is my house. This is my home.
It’s still hard to believe I’m a homeowner. I didn't understand how much my own beliefs had limited me, and I couldn't see how to break the cycle, until my son showed me. I'll no longer be a victim of negative thoughts or fearful emotions. I don't have to be.
Some dreams do come true. Open the door – see them, trust them, believe in them.