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?