I started writing this post on 09 Feb 2020. And boy oh boy, what an interesting four months and ten days have filled the time between then and now!
Last year, somebody viciously made fun of me for remembering "dates, numbers and statistics" and I thought to myself, "Bitch, what's wrong with that?"
If anything, I wear that ability of mine like a badge of honour. I will destroy your argument for shitty behaviour by quoting a text message from 2009 and some people have even been known to survive that with their egos intact. See specimen 1, a partner of nine years:
He knows better than to complain when I wake him up early on his birthday with his favourite breakfast in bed because I remember he enjoyed this gesture that one other time I did this in the history of our relationship.
And on the flip side, this ability to remember almost everything comes in handy with my particular love for storytelling.
So fasten your seatbelts. We're about to go on a rollercoaster ride lined with a couple of (shirtless?) Shawn Mendeses holding up placards displaying dates, numbers and maybe even a statistic or two.
Between mid-Jan to the end of Feb this year, Shane and I pored over endless piles of boring, soul-sucking paperwork to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
We have wanted to buy our own place (and not simply throw money into what seems like a black hole while renting) for some time now. However, without Indefinite Leave to Remain (ie. Permanent Residency), there are only two providers in the UK who might give us a mortgage. And for that too, you can't apply without having completed at least three years in this country. So we thought we'd suck it up, wait for five years, get ILR and then buy a place.
As a part of this process, we wrote our Life in the UK tests on 7th Feb. They don't tell you your scores at the end but I'll bet that I got a perfect score. I'm sure of it.
As I walked out of the test room, and just before I got whisked away to be told my scores, I saw my dear husband sitting outside, already done with his test and hunched over with his face buried in his palms. He looked up and nodded from side to side, which, for us Indians, can mean anything but because I know Shane, I knew this nod meant, "I fucked up and failed, please don't be mad at me".
I walked into a private room where a nice lady told me that I had passed so I promptly asked her if I had a perfect score and she said she couldn't tell me. So I asked if my husband who's sitting outside had passed and she said she couldn't tell me that either. But she could tell him if I would kindly get my ass out and let him take my seat. So I did. And he did. Take my seat, I mean. And then, from behind that closed door, I heard Shane's characteristic "Ho Ho Hokay" laugh and knew that he had passed. I asked him later if he'd asked her how much he'd scored. He didn't, but we're ready to bet that he just scraped through.
The very next day, I dragged Shane's ass to a house viewing which turned out to be more of a construction site viewing. By this point, we had viewed one other place and decided to keep looking. We knew all of our non-negotiables and had a bit of anxiety about finding our forever home. It took us (me) eighteen months to even find the rental property we've been in for the past two years so I wasn't expecting us to find the right place to buy until 2021 at least.
And then we walked into this construction site. The builders were folks we'd heard amazing things about and after going through their show-home in their marketing suite, they asked if we'd like to go see the bare bones of what might become our new home. Shane and I then donned helmets and boots and reflective vests and followed the Construction Manager and Sales Consultant into a dusty, cement-y, grey structure. I remember a lot of grey from that day.
But as we waded through all this dust and grey in uncomfortable boots (mine were two sizes too big BECAUSE THEY DON'T MAKE THEM FOR KIDS), and looked around at what could be a home that was more spacious and airy than any we'd inhabited together, I began to imagine what a particular chest of drawers would look like in that corner or what that couch I'd pinned months ago might look like next to the large windows in the living room.
I'm sure my eyes were glinting with excitement when I snapped out of this daydream to look into Shane's. But he simply nodded, which, as you already know, for us Indians, could mean anything but because I know Shane, I knew it meant "meh".
So once we were done with the tour, we thanked everyone and walked out without saying much. Minutes later, I realised that I knew NOTHING about my husband, Indians, or nods. Because apparently that last one meant, "Do we reserve it now or come back in a week?"
We sent out our email asking them to keep that plot on hold as soon as we got home that day. I still regret the fact that I didn't think to take a photo of us in all that protective gear the first time we viewed our dream home.
Contrary to our original belief that it would take us months to find the right place, we properly reserved the second property we viewed, exactly a week after viewing it. We hadn't had confirmation yet that we would, in fact, be awarded our ILR at this point but we went ahead and did it anyway.
This meant that our timelines were truly squished. We were meant to move-in in April, exactly two months after we'd reserved the place, and for people who had thought they'd have a year to plan this moment, there's nothing more shocking than the initial financial and logistical dread of it all.
One of the first people I called obviously was my best friend, Madam Madan who was reassuring as ever. I believe her exact words were, "You, my Type A friend, will be fine. If anyone can plan this all out in two months, it's you".
We all need friends like her. Also, a quick disclaimer that I am not, in fact, Type A. I have been tested and I scored moderately
high but I will vehemently deny being Type A.
My bestie's words rang true after all! Exactly a month after we reserved our home, we picked out the very last item on our list - our couch.
No, we're not getting that ridiculous chair but this was my happy-smile after we'd sat on literally every single couch in the showroom and picked out one that was just right for us.
And just like that, we were done. We officially got ILR on 12 March, and as of the evening of Sunday, the 15th of March, everything from spoons to guest-bedroom furniture had been well-researched and entered into the most orgasmic spreadsheet, complete with multiple tabs for various phases of the move, colour coding to rank the order in which we were going to buy things, and formulas that automatically managed our budgets.
Shane was the best partner I could have asked for during this process. We did every single thing together. I never imagined he would have such strong views on spoons, coasters and the origin stories of the reclaimed wood that would form a part of our furniture but it all just made me love him even more.
People say that buying a house can be one of the most stressful things for a couple but personally, this process has quite possibly been the highlight of our relationship. I met someone who makes everything better and I was lucky enough to have him by my side during these incredible highs, and as you're about to find out soon, some pretty painful lows too.
Exactly a week later, an entire country (and most parts of the world), went into lockdown.
I try to look at the past three months of lockdown objectively. I try to look at the big picture, absorb the pain and perspectives of others who've gone through a lot more than just living in fear of contracting a deadly virus. But I will never be able to ignore the subjective reality of what this time meant for me and Shane.
That financial and logistical dread I mentioned we experienced in February? Double that, and compound it with the fear of eviction.
We'd already given our notices and were yet to find out if our landlords were okay with us retracting. We got our mortgage offer the very day before our providers decided to stop giving out offers, especially to first-time homeowners. We naively wondered if this meant that we'd have to pay both a mortgage and our rent for the foreseeable future because the UK Government also deemed it a criminal offence to move house during the lockdown unless we could prove that it was "reasonably necessary" to do so. Even our lawyers struggled to explain to us what "reasonably necessary" meant.
Moreover, my hypervigilant anxious brain could not tolerate the thought of having movers in either of our spaces, huffing, puffing, and transporting heavy boxes with us, while any one of us could be carriers of the virus. This, on top of the subtle pressure from people who were worried about their cash flow if we chose not to settle the agreement as planned, was stressful, to say the least.
Long story short, we didn't get evicted, we weren't forced to settle the transaction until it was safe to do so, we didn't lose our mortgage offer (which was originally meant to expire two weeks from now but got extended anyway), we didn't put anyone at risk to move house, and we ourselves never contracted the virus as far as we know.
We took a significant financial hit over these past few months, but hey-ho, at least we weren't made homeless in the middle of all this, right?
So yesterday, our First Minister announced that Scotland was going into Phase 2 of easing the lockdown restrictions, and as of 1 pm today, the 19th of June 2020, Shane and I are officially home-owners.
As we celebrate this milestone, I want to look back at some that were missed during this weird time:
28 April 2020 - when we were originally meant to collect our keys. We walked all the way to our new home that evening and stared into windows that would soon frame all the warmth and love we intended to bring into this home.
29 April 2020 - when we were originally meant to move in.
04 May 2020 - as an early anniversary gift to ourselves, we'd arranged to spend the money we'd usually spend exploring a new place on a photographer instead. We thought that this year, we'd be exploring our beautiful new home instead of a faraway destination. The photos would have no doubt been chaotic and lined with boxes and bubble wrap, but it would be us at five years of marriage and nine years of being together. We're planning to borrow the services of our talented photographer for something else just as special later on :)
09 May 2020 - we were meant to be celebrating our fifth wedding and ninth relationship anniversary in our new home. Instead, we spent the entire day in bed with our shiny spreadsheet, ordering all the essentials for our new home. Nothing could beat the serotonin rewards every time we clicked "buy" that day.
03 June 2020 - the day my parents were meant to arrive in Edinburgh. The plan was for the guest bedroom to be set up for them by then but this dream will have to wait until it's safe enough for my dad, a heart-patient over the age of sixty, to travel again.
20 June 2020 - Tomorrow, our official move-in date, was originally meant to be the date of our house warming party with my parents and friends who had grown into family over the years. Madam Madan was going to book her tickets to fly in from Italy (LOL), Anirudh and Kirti were bound to jump on a train and come stay with us too. I made my friends Louise, Joe, Alex and Galatia mark this date on their calendars right before my eyes. But alas, it'll have to wait until it's safe enough for some of them to get on flights and for the rest of them to all be in the same room together. I cannot wait for the day I get to hug all these people again.
Also, by complete accident, we saw on an old Google calendar with our relationship milestones from our first year of dating that 20 June 2011 was when we first met in person after starting to talk on 09 May that year. What I wouldn't give to travel back in time to watch a young Ankita and Shane meet each other in person for the first time, not knowing that on the same day nine years later, they'd be moving into the first home they bought together.
And that's your rollercoaster. (Thanks, Shawn Mendes for all your support during this ride, albeit with a shirt on)
We've had the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and everything in between during the past four months and ten days since I first started writing this blog post.
At the end of it all, Shane and I are at an indisputable high again, waiting to find out if "delayed gratification" is real or not.
And oh, I forgot to add in some statistics here. Let's see...the percentage of pure happiness in this home right now (where I'm publishing this post from) is 100. The number of times the new inhabitants of this home have reminisced about their previous two homes together is 6. The love they have for each other has been on a steady incline since 2011. And the excitement levels here are what one would describe as "through the roof". Statisticians are yet to determine a way to measure that last one :)