Moving to Brussels has been stressful for my husband and me. Being apart for almost 6 months, being delayed 4 months, eventually learning that my husband’s employer misled us, all contributed to the stress meter. I tried to plan everything I could even with a limited knowledge of our relocation timeline. For 4 months every day, I was taking notes, memorizing addresses and their location in the map, and even street viewing apartments if I could, on a laptop in the Philippines. I have memorized neighborhoods in my head and can name the house number of an available rental in a given street. And yet, nothing I did could have prepared me for the stress of apartment searching in Brussels.
Upon arrival, I quickly found out that emailing different property agents can be a nightmare. Still, we decided to forego a search agent/relocation expert for 2000 euros, leading me to scour immoweb.be for potential places. A lot of emailing and waiting happened, with some never replying back. Half of those that did reply told me that my place of interest was already off the market. After emailing 20 different agents about their properties in 3 days, I finally got to schedule 3 apartment viewings.
This property was actually a house. A back house, but a house nonetheless. For the price, having privacy and freedom to be loud was such a bonus. A moderate-sized front deck, although tiled, was also nice. My husband loved it right away because it included a washer, a fridge and a nice area where he can grill in his robe. The icing in the cake? Solar panels. Personally, I found it to be OK, mainly because the kitchen was cave-like with zero windows. I can’t imagine growing anything in there. Location-wise, the house was in a well-connected, more-elegant part of town. It was a practical, solid choice.
I call this the James Bond penthouse. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it on the property website. It was spacious. You had to climb 2 stories worth of stairs to get to it, but it was worth it. Sunlight filled every room, and there were 2 decks available, one on each side of the house. It was a duplex penthouse so being loud was also not a problem. The top part of the penthouse had huge windows, giving the kitchen ample light to grow anything you want. It also had exposed beams and bricks. It was definitely Pinterest worthy. The penthouse was located in the cheaper part of town, which means there’s a lively mix of immigrants and cheap sandwich shops. Seeing it in person just made me want it even more. My husband, on the other hand, was thinking of the practicality of heating and cooling such a space. It was also slightly more money per month. Needless to say, Apartment 1 was his first choice, and Apartment 2 was mine.
For a lot less money, this apartment was located near Apartment 2. It was generally not memorable, with no defining features. It was livable, but quite small for 2 people and a dog. Compromises must be made to alter our lifestyle and space requirements. The kitchen was small with no windows. A laundry room was also absent. The only thing this place had going for it was its basement parking space. I was surprised that James didn’t pick it since the price was solidly within our budget. He argued that paying more money for a nicer, bigger place was worth it. I was shocked.
How Life Screwed Us Over (Again)
As soon as we got home, I emailed the realtors of Apartments 1 and 2. I sent in our application and waited. Apartment 2’s decision will be finalized 2 days later. By the time that date arrived, we already got notice from Apartment 1 that we were picked amongst the list of potential renters. My husband quickly wanted to secure the deal. The day was ending, so we thought we didn’t get Apartment 3. I exchanged our USD to EUR and we went to the realtor to sign a deposit contract by 4PM. We weren’t expecting an email from Apartment 2, but of course, life finds a way to fuck up your contentment. 3 hours after we signed the deposit, we got an email saying we got Apartment 2 as well.
The Resulting Inner Conflict
I can’t describe how much regret I felt. I was bitter and sad for the entire weekend. And now, 4 days later, I am crying over the loss of the penthouse on our AirBnB bed while typing this.
It’s stupid to think about it actually. It’s just a house. It’s a problem for the privileged, a first-world problem. We didn’t become homeless nor did we lack money to make the house cozier and more livable. It didn’t make sense that I will feel so much sadness over a missed opportunity.
I guess all the inappropriate timing life has thrown at us since we started this move all stacked up and built my frustrations. I mustered all my introspective feelings and realized that the penthouse also represented a dream of mine since I was little: to have a nice place to call home, with nice sunlight where I can grow things (though realistically, I have a black thumb), and nice barebones structure I can decorate.
Unless we are willing to give up one month’s rent, we couldn’t back out of the deal. Losing my dream home required a grieving process. Unfortunately, I am still grieving. As ungrateful as it may sound, it pains me to live in a house that was just OK, after all the shit we had to go through for this relocation. At the same time, I also feel guilty for having these feelings, knowing that a lot of people can’t even afford a decent home, much less cry over an impractical penthouse.
“Time heals” is such a popular adage, and I’m sure it’s applicable to this situation as well. Right now, I’m totally fine feeling like a spoiled, ungrateful snowflake.