My Divorce Forced Me to Leave the Home I Had Spent Years Renovating
Two years ago, I had it all figured out. My life was everything most 29-year-olds dreamed of—I had a devoted husband, successful business, beautiful home, and supportive friends and family. I had worked hard for the American dream, and thought I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
After college, I wasted no time getting married and spending my twenties obsessing over real estate. We bought three homes, extensively renovated them, and made plans to continue on a path to early retirement. We had what many would consider to be the "perfect life."
Then, last summer, the dream became a nightmare. Suddenly, "we" became "I", and I had to come to terms with the fact that the future we had been working toward for seven years was never going to happen. The homes I'd poured my soul into, that had taught me how to DIY and design and shaped the direction of my career and life, were no longer mine.
The homes I'd poured my soul into, that had shaped the direction of my career and life, were no longer mine.
Without having any clear sense of direction or purpose anymore, I needed to press the reset button in a big way. A month after my husband and I separated, I was on a one-way flight to Bangkok, determined to figure out this new single life on my own.
In the months I spent backpacking through Southeast Asia, I was free. There were no rules or responsibilities, no schedule, no projects to finish or errands to run. I met incredible people from around the world, learned new languages and cultures, and took more risks. Leaving home was the best decision I'd ever made and my world was forever changed.
By the time I returned to the states, home improvement was the last thing on my mind. I was ready to sell all of my possessions, trading them in for a life rich with adventure and experiences instead. Before I could resume my travels, however, I had to sell the house—the last home my ex and I had shared, the house I had worked on room by room, chronicling each step on my blog, Jenna Sue Design Co. And before that happened, I needed to finish remodeling it.
A timeline was set, design plan put in place, and contractors scheduled. I began counting down the days until it was over and hired out the work I lacked the motivation to do. Getting back into that same routine would surely make me feel as if I was trapped in my old life—a life I had vowed to never go back to.
It was quiet in that big house, apart from the occasional sound of a hammer from the contractor in the next room. I passed the time alone at my desk, daydreaming of the wonderful places I'd travel to next with my new found freedom. Slowly, though, the desire to decorate began to reappear. A daunting to-do list became less overwhelming, and even enjoyable at times. The passion that had once burned out suddenly found a new spark, and it was beginning to reignite.
Before I knew it, I was back on Pinterest seeking out inspiration. I became more involved, shopping for staging supplies and planning DIY projects. I built barn doors and shiplapped walls and even posted tutorials and instructional videos on my blog. But it didn't feel like I had reverted back to my former self, though. I was a different person in a much happier state of mind, doing the work because I wanted to and not because it was part of a routine.
This house and I had been growing together since the beginning. We were broken down, ripped apart, and empty at times.
One day it dawned on me that this house and I had been growing together since the beginning. We were broken down, ripped apart, and empty at times. But when the dust settled, we had transformed into something we once couldn't imagine was possible. Everything had to be stripped so that it could be rebuilt in a more beautiful way. We needed to overcome those struggles to earn our worth and appreciation.
The day it sold was bittersweet, but I had already let go months earlier and moved on. I was in a place far better than what I was leaving behind, and thankful that this home was that place of transformation for me. The blood, sweat, and tears were worth it—I've come to learn that they always are.
While my divorce put me back at square one in many ways, the skills and experience gained were more valuable than the houses themselves. Now, I feel like there's nothing I can't do. It may not be as easy or move as fast, but we're all in control of creating our present and setting up for the future. That sense of responsibility is incredibly motivating, and can push you to do more than you would if you had a safety net or someone else to fall back on.
I'm currently under contract with my next rehab and have never been so excited. Now I'm driven by a deeper reason to pursue this calling. It's part of a grand plan that has become my new purpose for living—my oxygen. Armed with the lessons and motivation from my past, I'll continue to renovate and invest in real estate, allowing myself the freedom to fulfill my need to travel.
Along with creating vision boards and building plans for homes, I realized I can design the life of my dreams, too. Both require careful planning and dedication. There's bound to be setbacks along the way, but the key is to never lose sight of the bigger picture. Tomorrow is an opportunity to start a new beginning.
Video: Divorce Lawyer: Can My Spouse Force Me To Leave The House?
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