Windows 8 is a different OS, It's not meant to look like Windows 7. Once you get over the initial learning curve, you will like it. I do. It's faster, and easier to use. And if all else fails, most of the old keyboard shortcuts still work.
Now as for the computer its self: Honestly, I wouldn't go with an SSD in a laptop if it's your only computer. There simply isn't enough storage for them at the moment. I have an SSD in my desktop, with all of my user folders directed onto an HDD. Yes its way faster than my laptop, but I don't use my desktop enough, and I have been tempted to put it in my laptop, but I want to be able to keep a copy of most /all of my files with me when I am not at home. I did upgrade the HDD in my laptop to a WD Black 750 GB 7200 RPM HDD from Microcenter (Like NewEgg.com but an actual store) for $90. It was cheap, faster than my 5200RPM stock hard drive, and a lot more space than I would have gotten out of an SSD.
Now I'm not saying to not use an SSD in your laptop, if you are dead set on using it, use one. But you will probably have to carry around a pocket full of large flash drives, or an external HDD, which kills the whole point of being able to travel lite with a laptop. (That was my reasoning anyways).
Make sure your computer supports 16 GB of RAM before you buy it. How much are you planning on spending on upgrades? I picked up my new laptop Last December for $350. Samsung Series 3 15" i3 (@2.4) 4GB RAM (+4 more from Microcenter $20) stock 320GB 5200 RPM (New HDD mentioned above +$90). I've got less than $500 in this computer, and it is more than I will need for the next year or two at least (and I was completely blown away by how good the speakers sound on this cheap computer).
It might be cheaper / easier to get a new mid-range laptop than spending money on upgrades. Only mentioning this so you will weigh all of your options.
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions. I made my last laptop last 4 years by doing what you are doing to your current one.