For the past few weeks, I’ve harbored a strange set of emotions. First off, I hurt. Not in a sad way but in a good way. My back aches and my ankles and wrists are sore. I’ve felt continually groggy for the past couple weeks and no amount of coffee seems to ward off the narcoleptic moments. Second, I’m happy. Not in a laugh-out-loud way but in a contented way. As if the dust of a decade of unsettledness has finally taken wind. The days seem clearer and have more purpose now than ever. And the anticipation of what’s next lays heavy around me. Third, I’m nervous. My proclivity towards worrying has only increased recently. I’ve become anxious, finding little respite in video games and other entertainments of late. I try to allay my nerves with thoughts of “it’ll be alright” and “it’s always a little difficult the first time round,” but they are quickly squelched by those irritating, in-flight neurons of unease.
While it might sound like I just had a kid or started a new job, neither is the case. What I have is a house.
Technically, it’s not “our new house” anymore — we hit the one-year anniversary a couple months ago. What we have now is “our house,” and yes, it is in the middle of the street. And even though we’ve hit that one year mark, part of me still can’t come to grips with the fact that we…I…own a house. Okay, okay…so we don’t really own it yet, we’ve got a long way to go with the mortgage. But as far as societal niceties are concerned, we own a house. I love it, and it brings me pain, happiness, and nervousness. It’s is ours as we can do whatever we want with it (erm, with the right permits, on occasion). No one can tell us that we can’t paint the bathroom hot pink (don’t worry, we didn’t). No one can tell us that we can’t remodel the kitchen (on the forever-long to-do list). No one can tell us that we can’t park here or there because we have a driveway. No one can tell me that I can’t do laundry or bake cookies in the dead of night. Our house has no occupancy limits and we can have over as many people we like whenever we want. No one can complain about us turning our backyard into a garden. Owning a house is simply brilliant.
Yet, it is also terribly stressful. We didn’t buy a “dream house,” but instead bought a house to turn into the dream. It has a funky layout that prevents some renovation. It has a decent central air system, but upstairs it’s still too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. The crawlspace, which I’m convinced is always full of creepy-crawlies despite the fact that I’ve been in it several times, leaves much to be desired. Though we gardened a good portion of the backyard, part of it becomes a swamp when it rains too much. The rain then quickly fuels the grass, the variety of which grows as thick as a pile of shag rugs. Mowing it is no easy chore. It’s great to sit on the porch and watch the wildlife while it chomps and pecks away that the fruits and vegetables of our labor. We have a garage that’s original to the house – it needs some serious work with asbestos shingles and sagging roof. Oh, and speaking of sagging, there are a couple cracked support beams under the house. And we just found a gas leak in our laundry room. Owning a house is simply exhausting.
But taking the good with the bad is what home ownership is all about. It’s a concept that I thought I understood years ago. Having lived in rentals for the past decade and a half, I’ve wanted my own house since moving out of my parent’s house. But the money was never there, or the place just wasn’t right, or the timing just didn’t work out. And I became complacent. Renting is so…so…easy. You agree to a set of terms, sign a piece of paper, pay rent every month, and you have a roof over your head. And depending on your personality and where you choose to live, the drawbacks sometimes don’t hold much weight to the advantages. In my case however, I became so used to moving and renting that I began to form my life around transience. I lived with half my stuff in boxes knowing that there’d be less stuff to pack when the next move came. The search for a new place came up automatically every year because issues inevitably developed over the course of any given stay – neighbors, rent, living conditions, jobs. I became obsessed with de-cluttering and got rid of countless objects each year, from unwanted clothes to seemingly unwanted (and later very missed) relics. I couldn’t imagine a life with any permanence, and I didn’t think twice about it for a long time. That was just the way things were.
I didn’t realize how deeply rooted these thoughts had become in my psyche until we bought a house. I was 100% behind the acquisition – I would have chewed off my arm if it would have gotten us away from our horrible, terrible duplex neighbors. The process happened relatively quickly, over a period of about 3 months, and it was surreal to say the least — from finding the house to warring over the price to finally signing the papers to having the deed in hand. Every day I’m reminded of that which is now ours; and every day I still push aside thoughts of non-permanence. I struggle with ownership, with the notion of having something that no one can rightly take away (not without a fight, anyway), and with the knowledge that we could be in this very same place 10 or 20 years from now. The sense of elation is as great as the sense of fretfulness.
In the meantime, I still have several boxes that remain unpacked. I guess I should probably get around to dealing with them someday. Or not. They’re in my house, after all.