I think our builder thinks there’s something wrong with me. We’re buying a brand new house in a wonderful town. It’s a nice house. He thinks we should be excited. I’m not.
Don’t get me wrong: it matters. If I had to live in poverty, or in an apartment with noisy neighbors, or beside barking dogs, or next door to a dump or chemical plant, I’d be even less pleased.
So what’s wrong with me? Why am I not excited by the privilege of moving into a new house?
I’m not sure. But perhaps there are several reasons.
First, it’s just a house. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the house really doesn’t have much (if any) bearing on whether you’re happy or not. It’s just a house, a structure that provides shelter and some degree of privacy and peace. It’s important, but there are more important things in life. Far more important.
Second, a house represents work to me. There is grass to mow. Snow to shovel (my new driveway is far too long!). Walls to paint. Leaks to fix. Broken furnaces to repair or replace. Some people like tinkering around the house, doing projects, etc. I don’t. There are better ways to spend my time.
Third, a house is costly and, at its worst, can be financially burdensome. It starts with the ridiculous purchase price. And then there’s insurance to pay. Rooms to fill. Water bills. Electric bills. Trash. Property taxes. Maintenance and repair. Renovations and updating (if you live there long enough). It all adds up. And when you add it up, it’s a lot. But I can think of a lot better ways to spend money, starting with trips to Yosemite, Alaska, New Zealand, Venice, cycling across the country.
Moreover, a house beyond one’s needs is an extravagance. Countless people need this money just to survive. And to cloth and feed their kids. And to buy their medicine. Splurging on a house seems immoral.
Yet buy the house I did.
I’ll probably enjoy living there. But I can’t get excited about the house itself. It’s what we do there that matters more. And what I do with my life.
So, why, you might ask, do I spend so much money on a house when it’s clearly not my cup of tea? Perhaps it’s because it’s easier to go with the flow, with dominant society values, than to buck them. Perhaps it’s because I’m selfish and simply don’t care about others as much as I’d like to believe. Perhaps it’s because it’s my escape, my nest that holds at bay the harsh realities of the world. Perhaps it’s my reward for all those years of working long hours. And for all that stress and the toll it took.
It’s not as if I’ve gone all in. I’ve always purchased less house than most people in similar circumstances. I’ve always exercised restraint. But enough restraint? Probably not.
So why not?
Because. What a pathetic answer. I know it. And perhaps that’s why I’m not more excited. Buying the house is a reminder of the mundaneness of life. And the way life lives you.
It’s no big deal of course. It doesn’t even rise to the level of being a problem. But, in a way, it is a big deal to me.