Monthly Archives: January 2005

Relevant Renaissance

For over a decade, my life has been a struggle towards becoming a better person. I’m not sure why I started to live this way, although I suspect that it was the result of a confused childhood, growing up with an almost completely unrestrained guidance. There was no sense of morality, perspective, and most importantly, purpose. I started feeling out my own worldview without being consciously aware of it at the time, and the result of all of this was a collective yearning for self-improvement as an effort to define myself and the things around me.

A few years ago, I realized that self-improvement is the highest form of living, that the best someone can do for him or herself is to be a better person. No other belief has become as important in my life. It sets learning as the greatest good, no matter what the means. Pain, loneliness, and hardship become beneficial. For years, my struggle for self-improvement was almost tangibly manifested. I could understand exactly the parts of myself that I wanted to change and make better, so I would slowly turn my life in that direction. As much as all of this helped me, it was still a struggle.

But even past this “useful” worldview or attitude is a more abstract goal (I refrain from using the word “positive”, because I feel that my understanding is more of what I consider a simple subjective realism, than the connotation of bias associated with “positive”). Whereas a polymath is someone with a relatively academic breadth of knowledge, I try to be rounded in a more general sense. This means an understanding and appreciation of anything, from humour, to wine, to music, to conversation, to narcotics, to relationships.

Simply put, I strive to be a better person in as many aspects as possible. I strive to be a dynamic person, who will never stop learning. I want to be able to have a conversation with any person I meet, no matter how different his walk of life is from mine. I want people I’ve known for years to be surprised by something I may do or say tomorrow, such as Trolley with my orgasm theories, or Pita with my growing securities. I want to be equally intellectually and emotionally powerful. To not have any weaknesses. To never stop improving.

To be truly universal.

I Bought A House

A condominium townhouse, more specifically. Two weeks ago I went to the bank, got my credit rating checked, and was pre-approved for a mortgage at one percent below prime (having no student loans, no balance on my credit card, no line of credit, no outstanding bills, no debt whatsoever, comes in handy). I also have a sizeable sum of money, left to me by my grandparents through an inherinance, which I’m putting towards a down payment. The good thing is that the down payment is more than 25% of the mortgage, so I won’t have to spend a couple of grand on mortgage insurance alone. Within a few days, I had a real estate agent keeping an eye out for properties for me. One morning, she sent me the profile of a place a little east of downtown, complete with a series of eight pictures or so. The place looked great, so I got a viewing booked that same day.

The house has two floors. The main floor has an eat-in kitchen, powder room, dining area, and living room. The lower floor has the master and second bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a storage closet. Out back is a little patio with enough room for a barbecue, and a lawn that can fit enough patio furniture for a small gathering. The profile listed six appliances included with the house; stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, washer, and dryer. There was only one previous owner, and he was a non-smoker. Everything was clean, solid, new, and, most importantly, comfortable. It was a place I could see myself living at for the next few years, and I had a feeling that this was the right one. Even though it was the first place I actually went to go see, I made a bid that evening. At the end of the night, after a bit of negotiation on the purchase price, my bid was accepted, and a closing date was set for the middle of March.

In order to protect me, my agent drew up the offer with four conditions; finance, insurance, inspection, and approval of status certificate. I waived the first three conditions within four days. My finances were already approved with the bank, although I did a little bit of extra negotiating on the rates and saved myself a considerable amount of money (based on a 20 year period of todays rates). I also already had a blanket insurance policy through the condo management, and I was satisfied with the house inspection, which found no major problems.

The approval of status certificate took a little longer, because I had to review the status certificate with my lawyer, and there were a few complications. The main complication was an on going lawsuit between the building company and the government. It turns out that the patios and balconies need to be rebuilt because of a mistake in the materials used. If the building company is found at fault, they will be footing the bill for the repairs. If they are not at fault, all condo owners in the area will have to pay a considerable sum, most likely as an increase in monthly condo fees. I got my lawyer to do a holdback in trust, for an amount slightly higher than the estimated repair cost, with the seller getting the residual. My agent got the seller to agree to this (as an amendment to the offer of purchase), so I won’t have to pay for these repairs no matter what the outcome of the lawsuit. The beauty of this is that property values in the area are expected to increase more than three times the cost of repairs, once the repairs are all done. I waived the final condition, two days ago, which made the deal firm and binding.

It’s a buyers market right now (no one wants to move in the middle of all this snow), so I got the house at an amazing price. While all of this was happening, my bank did an appraisal, and estimated the value to be considerably higher than what I paid for it. On paper, I’ve already covered the cost of land transfer tax, lawyers fees, and made enough money to buy car.

I will be able to walk to work. Across the street is a series of plazas, including a Timmies, a 24-hour Loeb, an M&M Meat Shop, a Wendy’s, a McDonalds, and a Pizza Hut. Right outside my door, not more than a ten second walk, is the bus stop for the #2, which can be taken downtown all the way to the west end where I am now. I’ll also have a parking spot, which I’ll try to rent out to someone in the area with two cars. My monthly condo fees cover maintenance, so I’ll never have to shovel snow or mow the grass.

Trolley will be renting a room from me to help cover my mortgage. I decided to amortize over 20 years, although it actually comes out to 18 years and 11 months because I’ll be making bi-weekly payments. I chose 20 years to be a little conservative (even though I’m on a fixed rate), because there are a few things I can do to pay down my mortgage quicker once I’m more comfortable with all the bills. My goal is to pay it off by the time I’m 40, and only move to a larger place when I can afford it or when this condo appreciates enough to keep my mortgage payable within the next 15 years.

Can’t wait to move in.

Has It Come?

Tonight I ordered the escargot, while Tinsley Ellis, a man who seemed to have a certain uncomplex wisdom beyond his years, sang his version of the south Florida blues. I admit that I was skeptical at first, but was pleasantly surprised by the time his first number had ended, an instrumental piece that one could tell was written as more than a simple introductory song.

And while he sang his words with a combination of gruff sincerity and stoic confidence, I sat there. Wondering why sad music can’t make me sad right now. Feeling something I had never felt before.

Lost in a moment of clarity.

The Inherent Investments Of Happiness

Life is a lot like business. There’s investment in everything, and relationships are no exception. One has to spend money to make money, the way one has to give trust to get trust. There’s no guarantee involved that says one willl get their investment back. On top of this, one can choose how much or how little to invest. Just like everything else in life, the more one risks, the more one can lose, or the more one can gain.

And the world can be divided in two according to this classification: those who play conservatively, and those who play it all. Those who stay distant, and those who throw themselves into love.

If we’ve been hurt in the past, if we’ve lost all that we chose to give, it’s natural for us to hold back in the future. But at some point we have to break out, and we can’t be scared to give as much as before. The key to living this way is understanding that our past investments, relationships, have no bearing on the ones we have now. It’s like the coin flip problem taught in second-year statistics, or, more appropriately, the Gambler’s Fallacy: even after 10 successive occurrances of a single outcome, the chance for the same outcome remains at fifty percent. We have to treat every trial, every case, every relationship differently.

Life, in relation to people, is a series of investments. We end up gaining from some, but not all. That’s what life is about. That’s what love is about. Nothing is worth it if you don’t put yourself out there. It’s important to figure out which ones are worthwhile, but not as important as figuring out that the worthwhile ones need to be given a chance. We need to put at least a little bit of our trust into them, or nothing will happen.

For what use is recognizing a good investment, if we don’t treat it as such?