I used to live in the apartment building on the left. I loved it there. It wasn’t a swanky neighbourhood or anything, but I had an incredible view from my top-floor apartment with 180º, wrap-around windows. I called this place “The Penthouse”, or occasionally, “The Mattitat”, since it suited me so well that I could say it was “Matt’s natural habitat”.
After years of living with Boris, Celia and others, I finally had a place that was all my own. It was filled with all of the things I needed, and even things I didn’t. It was a peaceful place. A refreshing place. At first.
After calling this place home for a year and a half, I started to get antsy. Bills were piling up, and I was working as much as I can to stay ahead of them. A co-worker at the hospital came back from mat leave, and I lost a lot of hours, so I needed to find other sources of income.
Also, something I hadn’t foreseen came up: I was getting lonely. At first, I loved the privacy of living alone, but company didn’t come as often as I wanted, and between that and the money pressure, day by day, my penthouse gradually became a prison.
I needed to make a change, but what was I to do? I had to live somewhere, and my home, though beautiful and slightly more expensive than my previous living situations, wasn’t that much more expensive.
I knew I needed to get out of debt, and I knew I wanted to share my life with other people again, but then what would I do with all of my stuff? And would downsizing really solve the problem? I needed to do something far more drastic than that.
After much research and deep consideration, I decided to make a drastic move. Lots of people start a side hustle in order to make some extra cash, but I was launching a business that would actually pay me to be homeless.
This idea became King Home and Pet Care. I became a professional pet sitter, specializing in homes that have many pets (two dogs, two cats, a rabbit and a chinchilla, for example). I got my Pet First Aid certification (yes, I know how to do CPR on a dog), got bonded and purchased pet sitting insurance, and even pulled a criminal record check on myself so my clients could see that I am, indeed, not a criminal.
Instead of paying for an apartment, I would get paid to live in other people’s homes, and still keep working at the hospital.
But there was one gaping hole in this otherwise brilliant plot. What would I do when I was between contracts? Where would I live?
This is where a little bartering came into place. Some of my clients heard about me through word of mouth or my website. Some were friends or acquaintances of mine. To some of those who were friends, I said, “Don’t pay me for my services when I look after your pets. Sometime, when I’m between contracts, let me crash your spare room or your couch.”
Between that and the generosity of some friends such as Faithful Frank, Harry House Arrest (stories coming soon), and even some families from church, I lived a year and a half with my only address being a PO Box at the mall.
Near the end of this adventure, I was sitting in a coffee shop one afternoon, paying my bills through internet banking. Suddenly I realized I had just made my last debt payment. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I quickly hid behind my sunglasses as to avoid drawing attention to myself. It was over. The debt which had plagued me my entire adult life was gone. I was finally free.
Shortly thereafter, I was driving home from the night shift one morning, pulled over the car and had to ask myself, “where do I live this week?” I decided it was time to get a home. I could afford an apartment again, and I could have easily moved back to the old Penthouse, or something like it in the neighbourhood, but instead I chose a room at Birchwood House; a shared house near the college, where I shared my life with Awkward Amir, Nancy the Nudist, Kim the Korean Salsa Dancer and others.
Living a crazy, unstable life had taught me to appreciate what I had, and also what I could live without. I found my stuff didn’t mean as much to me, and relationships meant more. It’s funny to think that what started as an unorthodox solution to a financial problem ended up teaching me about love, sharing and adding value to others.
Now I live intentionally in community with others for the joy of surfing the waves of these beautiful, ever-changing relationships. I don’t have to do this anymore; I want to, and I couldn’t imagine living any other way.
Next up: Harry House Arrest.