I’ve owned a home now for just over ten years and I recently noticed how all of the tools I’ve accumulated are orange! Why is that?
It’s funny, but the acquisition of each and every tool represents a level of responsibility I haven’t always been fond of accepting. There have been many times when I fully resented the work it takes to make a house a home. To be honest, there have been times when it felt a little like prison.
Now, when other (younger) single people mention the idea of home ownership, I brace myself. I don’t want to give them my advice. I don’t want to share with them the fears I faced along the way. I know they’re realizing the limitations of renting. They want something of their own – just like I did.
I remember being 38 years old and feeling like a house would offer me the type of security I’d previously sought in my relationships. Buying a home would be evidence that I could take care of myself, like earning my badge of independence.
For me the pinnacle of success would be to own a real house, a place for my kids to call home, forever, where they could count on being. And so upon graduating from college, I got a full time job and found our house. But what I didn’t bargain for was the feeling I’d get the moment I signed my name to the mortgage note: complete panic. You see I’d never lived anywhere longer than five years.
All the “what ifs” came crashing through the door – unwelcome guests, hungry and ready to stay the night.
And stay they did, for about ten years. Every time I’d face a challenging spot in my life, the house, the one symbol of how far I’d come suddenly loomed as a huge burden, trapping me, keeping me tied down and (gasp) responsible! What if I couldn’t make the payments? What if I needed to go someplace else? What if I couldn’t handle the repairs?
Every time I made a major life decision, that house and its expenses came into consideration. I risked it to go back to grad school and get my masters degree. I chose it over a man I was dating in Denver as a symbol of my personal value. I risked it again when I quit my corporate job for one that would provide me more personal accomplishment and freedom.
But stay I did, and the longer I lived in that one address, the more grounded I became in knowing who I was, what I valued and where I belonged. That house kept me safe through each and every twist and turn I faced. It made me realize that it wasn’t my mother’s irresponsibility that kept her moving, but her fear of the challenges that life presented for a single woman. It made me realize that she too, often felt alone and didn’t trust her ability to handle things.
I still live in that house today and I’m proud that it’s a big part of my life. It has taught me more about trust and believing in myself and the goodness of the Universe than anything else could. My ability to stick it out and stay in that house says a lot about not only who I am, but who I became as a result of making that one big decision, to define myself as stable, capable and responsible toward my own life and the people I cared about. And to believe in myself – to face my fears alone and open my heart to the support and help of others, something I wasn’t too good at doing in the beginning. And finally to trust in something much greater and powerful than my little self, something that knew I needed to experience that special feeling of being “at home.”