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Healing in a new home

Jen Miller Feb 10, 2012

Tess Vigeland: Home ownership has gotten quite the bad rap over the last few years. But there’s something about its permanence, its feeling of independence, that still attracts millions of Americans each year.

Commentator Jen Miller knows what it’s like to be a home owner. But she arrived at that relationship after the breakup of another one.

Jen Miller: When some women get dumped, they buy a dress, get a new haircut, maybe go on vacation.

Me? I bought a house.

Before my on-again/off-again boyfriend left me for another woman, he had been trying to get me to invest in real estate through his cousin. You could buy two houses by the end of the week with no money down, he said. Sell them in three years, and you’ll make yourself a fortune.

Did I mention this was 2007?

He had gotten one thing right: Instead of paying for rent on an apartment, I could be getting the tax deduction a home brings. But instead of going exotic with the financing, I went boring: I bought a 1,200-square-foot row home with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. And I used my savings plus the cash that had been set aside for my wedding for the downpayment. I wasn’t going to be using that any time soon.

I didn’t care that I could have afforded bigger or more. I didn’t want a risky investment. I wanted a piece of property to call my own, something sturdy and steady that would never leave.

I painted my office Superman blue and the spare room brick red. I put a composter in the backyard, and made my dining room an homage to mid-century modern cool. On sunny days, I’d eat my lunch on the back steps while my dog sprawled out a lawn the size of a postage stamp.

There, I healed. I put my life back together as I patched and painted, found strength in myself as I replaced the washer and dryer and installed central air. Even when the toilet stared leaking through the ceiling, I didn’t regret my decision. My home, my problem: Both things I could fix.

I don’t know what happened to my ex, or all those condos he bought with adjustable rate mortgages. My decision to buy small, boring and under my budget and boring proved to be the right one.

The house is still mine. It’s an investment property now as I live with my boyfriend in a house he bought years ago — without any gimmicks or tricks the same way he won my heart. But I will never forget what I learned there. Even if things fall apart, and I end up living in the little row home with the lawn the size of a postage stamp, I know I’ll be OK, that I’ll heal, one Superman blue room at a time.

Vigeland: Jen Miller is the author of “A Book a Week with Jen: 1 Year, 52 Books and a Year of Staring a New Chapter.”

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