This past year has been, by far, one of the most emotionally charged, roller-coaster-y of my entire life.
At the beginning of the year, I was sweating graduate school applications, having just finished my Bachelor’s degree. I’d been in school since 2004 at that point, and was relieved to have finally graduated. But if I didn’t get in to one of the schools to which I’d applied, I was going to be at a loss as to what to do.
As a back-up, I was flooding the market with resumes and applications as well as was helping Charlie to apply to a variety of places. We were set on moving to Chicago, if we could make it happen, but after the first couple of months of 2011, neither of us were getting calls back.
Meantime, my dad was still living with us, not to finally depart until the end of March. He’d first moved in with us at the beginning of May 2010, and it was really supposed to be just for a couple of months. Charlie warned me from the get-go that this wasn’t going to be the case — that we were in it for the long haul. But I kept hoping against hope that something would change.
My dad got a job at the end of December that lasted about three weeks. He was being paid $60 an hour to do IT work, and also got approved for disability. He didn’t tell the disability office that he was working, but that didn’t matter because he got fired anyway. Though not before collecting something like $6,000 before taxes (he was working as an independent contractor and the company didn’t take out taxes for him). We saw about $500 of that when he paid to have our car window fixed. The one that had been broken out since June the previous year.
The disability check also rolled in, paid back to May, when I began filling out the paperwork FOR him, as well as having to be interviewed, myself, on the phone, and writing statements. That check was about twelve grand. From that, we saw $300 for rent in February.
I guess what I’m really talking about here is 2010, because I keep thinking of all the things we did for my dad up to the point he’d received all that money. We sold our brand new rolling dishwasher (still being paid off at this moment), our Wii system, Charlie’s year-old iMac, movies, CDs, furniture. Our credit cards fell behind. We borrowed money from Charlie’s family. Our tax refund was gone in a week. We paid for my dad’s car, his insurance, his medication, his food, his gas, his clothes for job interviews, things for his room.
I had to start working more. Charlie had to start going in at 4:45am some days to pick up extra hours. We still managed to work our schedules around Bea, though, because despite the fact that my dad claimed he could watch her, I never trusted him alone with her for more than a few minutes. We are talking about the man who called a one-year-old a “bitch,” you know. (“I didn’t mean she IS a bitch, I meant she’s BEING bitchy.”)
But then he was gone in March. He didn’t pay us for the furniture he “bought” until Charlie called and bitched him out. And even then he didn’t give us what he’d said he would. But the amount of relief we felt having him out of the house was almost worth losing out on all he’d borrowed.
And then I got my acceptance to DePaul. I was in tears at work, I was so happy. Charlie and I suddenly had to figure out how the hell we were going to get to Chicago, though. No easy feat. We started selling more things, searching CraigsList even more furiously than before. We took two day trips for job interviews and apartment hunting. Then I found the garden apartment in Anne’s house and it was like the sun finally started shining on us.
I drove up one weekday with Liz, combining signing the lease with an interview for an assistantship (that I did not get, mind you), which marked the first night in Bea’s life that I’d spent away from her. She was almost two years old.
In the middle of a terrible thunderstorm at the end of May, we drove to Chicago, all of our belongings getting soaked, and had our first inkling that something wasn’t quite right when we arrived to find Anne moving all of our stuff out of the utility room and mopping. Charlie and our friend Scott had made a trip the day before and stored it in the back of the apartment. Since the place was a wreck, they assumed Anne wasn’t done cleaning, so they wanted to keep stuff out of her way. I guess she felt things were in good shape, because she didn’t clean anything.
While we had box fans going on all our stuff, Liz and Charlie and I were up until 1am, scrubbing cabinets and floors, the bathtub, the utility room. There were cobwebs and spiders and bugs everywhere. We tried to put on a smile and assumed it was just from the freakish amount of rain.
But you know that’s not the case, because, within three months, we were facing potential eviction. We met an apartment hunter, borrowed even more money from friends, and found the apartment we’re in now. For only $95 a month than we paid at Anne’s dump, we have an extra bedroom, a garage space, a dishwasher, a free laundry, decent neighbors (we don’t really hang out with them or anything, but they’re nice and stay relatively quiet), and we’re on a quiet, family-friendly street. A few days after this relocation, I started my first quarter of graduate school, where I passed with a 3.85GPA. I wasn’t happy to not have a 4.0 — I wanted to at least start out with a perfect GPA — but I was glad to have done well in both classes.
We finished out the year in Indy, staying with the friends who’d helped us move, and spending Christmas Eve at my aunt’s house where, as you know from my previous entry, I saw my dad for the first time since he’d moved out.
It’s been a rough year. Expensive and stressful. I lost weight last year, put some back on, then lost it again, walking all over the place to go grocery shopping, hang out at the beach, get to class. I’m glad to be where we are right now, and if I had to change anything, we might not be here, in this moment.
The Best and Worst of 2011
- We watched our daughter turn two years old.
- We lost our dog of almost 13 years. I still cry for her.
- We had our first visit to Indianapolis as Illinois residents.
- We watched our close friends — Bea’s godfathers — struggle to sell their home so they could move here, too. We haven’t seen that come to fruition yet, and it’s incredibly lonely here without them. I’m glad they visit so often, and that we have a spare bedroom just for them, but I do wish they were closer, for Bea’s sake. And their sanity.
- We said goodbye to all the pets we’d lived with for more than a decade as Alvy and Andouille both went to a new home. I don’t know what the likelihood is of them returning to us, but I try to remain positive about it.
- We got hundreds of dollars in parking tickets, making us official Chicago residents.
- We went into debt even further, watching my student loans begin to grow exponentially as I started my first day as a graduate student in September.
I’m taking deep breaths as I say this, but I am still hopeful that the next year has a lot more positives in store for us. I would be fine without the highs if I could avoid the lows. I just want a year of school, work, exploring the city, spending time with friends and family, and keeping things calm and easy-peasy. Charlie and I tend to have good and bad years. Our good years are usually odd, and bad ones are usually even. But considering we’re getting ready to mark our 11th wedding anniversary, I suppose we can switch things up. We’ll say goodbye to what was going to be “our year,” the Year of the Rabbit, and welcome the Year of the Dragon.