On not being a homeowner

As of last Monday, I am no longer a homeowner. It feels amazing!

To some people, that sounds like an odd statement, but bear with me, I’ll explain. And settle in, this one is going to take awhile.

Just about 6 years ago (or 7, maybe 5? I’m not sure), I bought a house with my siblings. Purchasing a home is a life milestone in our society; it is treated as a sign of maturity and adulthood. You’re “putting down roots” and “committing” to something.

All of that, if you haven’t already figured that out by now, is bogus.

Buying that home was one of the dumbest decisions I made, not because it hurt me financially (it didn’t), not because it was in a bad neighborhood (it wasn’t), and not because it was a money-pit or poorly constructed or a place of problems or trauma (not at all).

No, the reason it was one of the dumbest decisions I made is because it wasn’t a decision, it was a default option.

Wait, you say, how was it a “default option?” It was the buying of a home, right? It involved a mortgage and sending in paperwork and signing lots and lots of documents, etc. ,etc. Honestly, those things are irritating administrative tasks for the most part, but they’re not hard.

No, it was a default option because it was something that–

  • I allowed myself to be pushed into it (I didn’t want a house)
  • I didn’t consider the implications, truly (what does it mean to own a home and be rooted to a place and with the people you have now rooted yourself to?)
  • Made sense for everyone else (stay close to family because that’s what you’re supposed to do, live this life this way, don’t be different)

The truth is, I “chose” the default option because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I didn’t want to be the one to say: “Hey, I don’t want a house because I don’t want to live here and I don’t want to be near to the family.” Why? Because then I would need to explain why; I would need to justify why; I would need to talk about things I wasn’t ready to talk about.

So, I treated it as a mild irritation — “fine, fine, I’ll send you the copies of the bank statements, tell me where I need to show up to sign, tell me what credit card you need, tell me what check to write, okay, okay, okay, who do I need to call…” — and so on and so forth until I was the co-owner of a home and I was on the hook for a major set of renovations and then I had a livable house…

That I didn’t live in for almost two years. That is part of a longer story that will not be told here.

Fast-forward to earlier this year and a distinct disruption in how I engaged with the world and we have a very different set of things happening:

  1. I am now ready to talk about things. Well, no, say things, not “discuss” because–
  2. I am no longer explaining or justifying anything to anyone.
  3. I no longer intend to own a house that is not a home, but instead an albatross around my neck.

When you change how you engage with the world, everything in your life must change, too. And so, this house, this house which entangled me in unhealthy ways to my family, to my sense of self, status, and identity – it had to go.

Houses are not homes and homes are not houses
There are lots arguments to owning a house (and often that sentence is “owning a home.”) It’s a good financial investment. It’s good for your credit. You have space to do lots of things. It’s yours and so you can do with it as you like.

Sure, most of that is true. However, a house is not a home – a home is a broader concept, it is a place that may be physical or not, where you feel safe, loved, and protected. Some people feel that when they step into the physical house in which they grew up or they purchased with a partner; or maybe it’s a particular neighborhood or city or the place where they went to college. But the house is not the home.

You cannot force home. You can build shelves and put up walls; you can paint colors on walls and place wood planks to make floors; you can fill a room with all sorts of gadgets and gizmos and toys and knick-knacks; you can purchase bedsheets and curtains and lamps and candles — but you cannot force those things to mean home.

For a very long time, I had a house, but I didn’t have a home. And then I found a home, and it wasn’t my house, and I wasn’t able to stay in that home. And now I have a home again and I needed to let this house go because it was a stressor that felt like a night specter that at any time could force me to leave my home to go back to NYC to keep caring for that house.

I’m free of that specter now; I’m free of that hobgoblin and that is why I feel amazing.

But, still, owning a house…
I do believe I will purchase another house in the future. If I buy one for investment purposes, I certainly won’t live in it because we should never confuse a financial investment as a home. It’s not.

And if I buy one as a place where I think it will naturally become a home, because I’ll ideally be doing that with someone I care about and we’ll have bigger plans and goals which will fill that space with the elements to make it a home, I’ll be crazy excited for it.

It will be a choice, not a default option.
It will be for the right reasons and I won’t resent it.

It has been quite the journey to get from there, where I offhandedly purchased a home, to here, where I determinedly and doggedly stuck through selling it. I do not regret it though some of those lessons were super-hard to learn.

I do look forward to spending some time as a “mere” renter – still an adult, still independent, still okay in the world – and I’ll leave the homeownership to those who are ready for it. I will be again in the future, but for now? I’m good.

One thought on “On not being a homeowner

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