A Facebook friend was waxing ecstatic about the 80s this morning on her post. Many of her friends replied in similar vein, talking about music, fashion, even the economy. I could not agree at all. Maybe it’s because I am of a different generation. The FB friend is closer to my daughter’s age than mine and was in high school during the 80s. Terry said, when I laughingly told him of the comments, that everyone likes their high school years and that I should tell her the 60s and 70s were the best. I don’t know that those decades were all that great, either, but they were much happier for me than the 80s. The clothes and music were also better and there was a feeling that we could do anything. Like go to college, get married, buy our first place, buy new cars, start a family.
We bought the house in which we still live in October 1980. The prices were high (we had made over 100% profit on our condo) but so were the interest rates. We were able to buy the house because it had an assumable loan with 11% interest. New loans had interest rates of 15-16 percent. A few months later Terry’s brother would buy a house with 18% interest on the loan. It was a tough, tough time. Sure enough, only a year or so after the purchase, our house was worth considerably less than we had bought it for. We had put almost twenty percent down, so that helped somewhat, but it had not been our intention to stay in this house but for a few years. We had hoped to sell and move up. Thirty two laters, with the house paid for, it’s all a moot point, but back then it was painful.
Terry lost his job in 1982 and we really struggled. His next job in retail didn’t pay all that much. There were times I had no idea how we would pay the bills. Jennifer was removed from private school; the dance lessons stopped; we didn’t go on any vacations. Since I shopped at Mervyn’s for Jen’s clothes, I bought my things there, too. Certainly nothing fancy.
I wasn’t happy with my job and wanted something different, but every interview I had was pretty much for the same kind of work, just a different company. Years went by. One day I finally realized I wanted a job that would give me more time off with Jennifer, and teaching seemed perfect for that. I had worked long enough for the cottonseed company that I had a large amount in my retirement fund, enough to live on for two years, the time it would take me to get a teaching credential. In late 1987, things began to click. There were again possibilities.
By 1989 I had the credential and a job at the inner city high school where I would remain for 21 years. Terry had returned to school, too, and was working in computer programming. He would change companies quite a few times in the next two decades as the businesses kept changing, but our finances were in good shape.
I also had begun to feel better about myself and what I was accomplishing. The 1980s, and my thirties, were behind me. Maybe that made a difference, too. The thirties seem like a tough time, now, in retrospect. You’re no longer young, but you haven’t found your niche yet, or at least I hadn’t. The financial part was the biggest hurdle of that era and one I would not relive for anything. I get upset, though, when I hear of people just up and leaving a house on which they owe more than it’s worth. That was our situation for a few years, but it never occurred to me that we should abandon our debt responsibility. We stuck with it, and today the house is paid for which makes retirement at a young age possible. I guess that decade of discontent taught me that things can change and you are never stuck forever.