Back when I first bought #wfwhitehouse in all it’s outdated glory, the insanely talented Abigail Berry with Light + Free Folk reached out and offered to take some photos of the finished product for me, and I looked forward to this throughout the entire renovation. She shared my vision for that old house and could see its potential just like I could. From the very beginning, I dreamed about the fresh flowers I’d buy and scatter about for these photos. Everything would be decorated so beautifully and I’d probably do these photos right before I invited all of you in to see the big reveal.
Needlessly to say, that vision didn’t play out quite like I imagined and as I neared my move out date, I began to really mourn the loss of this part of the dream. I began to feel sad that I wouldn’t have any “real photos” of this renovation, even though it wasn’t fully finished or decorated. I felt like I was leaving without proof of how much I’d accomplished and I wouldn’t have anything to remember this important part of my story by. Feeling pretty bogged down by this realization, I messaged Abigail and asked her thoughts on doing a session in this unfinished space before I left. I only had a few days before I had to be out and not only was it not a beautiful finished product, I’d already undone the little bit of decorating I’d done and the place was covered in boxes. If you’ve ever moved before, you probably understand how nonsensical it sounds to invite a professional photographer into your home just days before you move! You’re usually not putting your best foot forward right then. Well, I did it anyway. I didn’t even fret over my outfit. I got up, got dressed, packed a few more boxes, and invited Abigail in. I’ve never worked less hard to be impressive. I just didn’t have it in me, if I’m honest, and I wanted these photos to be as real as possible.
Abigail’s response to my message that day was so understanding of where I was with this whole process. She agreed that I needed something to mark this special time in my story and that while it didn’t look anything like what we’d both imagined initially, I should take the photos anyway. And she was right — I’ll cherish these forever.
To be honest, I was in the trenches of the most emotional part of the move when she came. I fought back tears as I invited her in and I stayed home and cried for hours after she left. I think you can see that emotion on my face in some of these photos. You can also see the unfinished spaces. Such as that hideous lavender window frame and the fact that I still had a beach towel covering the window of the door into my bedroom. You can see that my new master bath didn’t get its final coat of paint and I hadn’t handled that plexiglass window situation. I actually hadn’t even used that bathroom yet, besides sneaking in a few baths, open windows and all. You can see sheetrock that needed patching and every single room had some sort of paint situation that needed to be addressed. You can see that the outside was never finished because that was the next item on the list when I got the call that I’d probably be moving. We’d replaced rotten wood and little had been scraped and nothing painted. A lot of the construction debris was still hanging around outside. From the outside looking in, you’d have NO IDEA that the inside had undergone such a transformation. I didn’t want to hide any of that though. I felt it was an important part of the story.
In these photos you can also see how far this old house came. When I first bought it, most people couldn’t see what I saw. They couldn’t imagine what it could become. One of the hardest things to part with in this process is the fact that I didn’t get to fully show everyone this house’s potential. I didn’t get to do the big reveal that I dreamed of, showing off the finished product I’d envisioned and worked so hard towards. Letting go of that desire was one of the hardest parts. Yet even though you didn’t get a fully finished, magazine-worthy product, I think you can see the progress. Between these photos and little snapshots I shared on Instagram, I think you can see just how far this old house came. You can see the reconfigured kitchen with age-appropriate cabinetry and refinished sink. That sink. It was my favorite. You can see the refinished floors and how we uncovered, pieced together, and salvaged enough wood to carry them into the kitchen area too. (More on that here.) You can see that I added a laundry room and enclosed it with salvaged swinging doors from the cafeteria at Millsaps College, even though the hardware hadn’t been added back on yet. You can see the beautiful wood ceilings and the natural light that poured in through the big, original windows. What you cannot see is all of the new plumbing or electrical, and those items alone were thousands and thousands of dollars, not to mention one of the biggest and most disappointing failures I’ve had in this realm. (I nod to some of that in the last post if you want to look back.) There’s so much you can’t see, both good and bad, in these photos and yet they capture both where I was and where the house was at this stage of the game.
This house took me through some of the most difficult months of my life. I shared some of that struggle here with you all and I didn’t know then just how serendipitous it would all be. This house broke me down in a lot of ways and then helped me to put myself together. It showed me so much about myself and my life and I never saw that coming. It was in the four walls of this beautiful place that I came to terms with so many things that have haunted me over the years. I was forced to face the facts and feel all of it because I no longer had the choice not to. I’m not finished with that journey and yet I know I made tremendous progress in that house, in those vintage green chairs right off the remodeled kitchen, cup of coffee in hand. Once I left the house for the last time, right before closing, I felt done with it. I didn’t really mourn its loss anymore, and I felt like the place had served its purpose for me. We went through some amazing transitions together and we both still have work to do. We just simply reached the end of that road together.
When I look back on this place, several specific things will come to mind. I’ll remember Christmas morning the most and several other key moments next. The most important thing I’ll remember though, is the journey of growth this big, old house took me through. Everything came to a head for me in this house and I put myself and my life back together there. When I look back, that’s what I’ll remember most. I thought I signed up for rebuilding another house and what I got was so much more than that. I don’t think I would have finally navigated some of that without the house and its struggles nudging me towards the ledge. A lot of it was hard and yet I’m so grateful. I wouldn’t actually change any of it — the struggles, the hard times, the blood/sweat/tears. I wouldn’t make any of it easier to navigate because I needed those hard times to face the facts of the heaviness I’d been carrying with me for years. It’s hard to admit, and I’ll do it for the sake of authenticity — I also wouldn’t change the decision to leave it all behind.
I decided to leave that house and with it, I left an old version of myself. The new and improved version knows so much more about who she is, what she needs, and what she wants out of life. The old Pamela would have fought to the end to keep that place and she’d had done it to prove a point. She’d have done it because she was inflexible and wouldn’t have been able to let go of that original vision or consider new plans. She’d have stayed there out of stubbornness and fear of disappointing people or seeming like a failure. This new version of who I am can see it for what it was. She can see that the house did its job. It accomplished its purpose for me. She can look at things with a clearer mind and make the most logical decision, putting aside the extra emotion and fear of what other people would say/think. I can say this with certainty, she’s never been so sure of herself and confident in making her own decisions, without fear of what people outside of the arena will have to contribute. She’s also never been so excited about the future.
Moving away from referring to myself in the third person, I can honestly say this decision and process was my starting over moment. I thought going through divorce and moving to the condo was that point, and then I thought this house would be it. Looking back, it’s so easy to see that those weren’t it. I was merely treading water, simply trying to make it through what all I’ve been through the last several years. I was doing the best I could with what I had and to be quite honest, I’m proud of myself for how well I did. There’ve been so many times over the last several years that I had no idea how things would work out. I operated in blind faith a lot of the time and just made the best decision I could make in the moment that something new was handed to me. When I look back, I am so utterly proud of how strong I was, even when I was scared. I am proud of how I preserved even when I felt like I could barely take the next step. I’ve longed for so long to get to place of peace and stability, and I’ve not been able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Let me be clear — I am not naive enough to believe that there’s not a new challenge right around the corner because that’s just what life is. However, for now, I feel like I found my spot of peace. I found a safe place to land and take deep breaths. I’ve done so much of the heavy lifting already that I truly believe I deserve this moment, no matter how short, to just be still and breathe. It’s been years since I felt so content and confident in myself and my ability to navigate this world on my own. Actually, I think this is the first time I’ve ever really felt this. And I must say, it was worth the wait and the struggle to get here.
In case you need a reminder, here’s the before pics.