I didn't ever want to own a house.
Right there, you all are like, "OK, I see where this is going. She thought she never wanted to own a house and now she wants to." Yeah, that's kind of it. But not all of it.
John and I bought the condo that ended up being My Own Personal Albatross and Symbol of Grief because we got kicked out of the apartment we had been renting. It was being condoized, and we couldn't afford to buy it. So we bought something else, which was a stretch for us and required the financial assistance of family. It was, in many ways, the perfect place for us, insofar as no house is really perfect.
[HINT: FORESHADOWING OF LESSONS LEARNED.]
It was, however, an old house. An old, renovated house, but an old house. So I ended up in the position of having to care for two babies, a dying man, and a nearly 100 year old home that I knew was not my forever place to live. I felt obligated to keep it up to a standard that would allow it to be put on the market at any time. In the end, I made almost $20K of improvements to the home. Mostly due to bad timing, I (and the family members who had helped us with the downpayment) lost over $100K on the sale. While I truly have no regrets about moving and selling, that's a hell of a lot of money. It's fair to say that the experience soured me on owning.
[HINT: MORE FORESHADOWING ON LESSONS LEARNED]
The twins and I arrived in Portland, footloose and fancy free, happy to be renters. And renting has, in fact, been a great experience. I don't fret about not loving everything about the house; it's not my house, and I feel no emotional investment. It provides us shelter. If things break, someone else has to worry about fixing them. My expenses are predictable. It's not my responsibility, and given my life situation, it's good for me to jettison any responsibility that I can.
As I said, I never really wanted to own a house. Given that we were being forced to move and that the conventional wisdom of 2004 was that real estate was a sure-fire financial win, we bought rather than renting again. Owning a home was an important emotional milestone for John, and he took more pride in home ownership than I did. I'm glad he got to experience that in his too-short life. And it's true: the looking around, finally finding the right place, and having our offer accepted was, in fact, exhilarating, but truth be told I felt chained and overwhelmed as soon as we walked out of the closing.
Truth is, I just don't like owning stuff, houses included. Oh, I'm a good American, don't get me wrong, I own plenty of unnecessary crap, but I'm also constantly looking around, evaluating what I could live without and how I can get rid of it. Owing things = responsibility, and let me just say it one more time: I already have enough of that, thank you very much.
So we rent. And it's great. It's not perfect [told you that was coming], but it's been perfect for me.
Over the past few weeks, though, something has been shifting. I've come to terms with two important things. One is that I'm committed to living in Portland. I don't have any plan to leave. No, I can't see into the future and I'm aware that any number of life-changing events could cause me to reevaluate that decision. But today, and based on the most likely projections of the future, I don't see myself going anywhere. This is my town.
The second thing is that I'm specifically committed to living in North Portland, the infamous Fifth Quadrant (I love this town). It's not terribly close to my work, but it is close to my parents, my best friend, downtown, a Spanish immersion public school (in which Maddie and Riley already have spots), and good public transportation. It's one of the most socioeconomically and racially diverse neighborhoods in Portland. It's super-easy for my dad to get here from his town. It's bikeable. Overall, it's way hipper than I am.
Given that I'm committed to North Portland for the long haul, that I don't want to buy the house we're currently in, and that the owners of the house we're in have hinted around about wanting to sell at some point in the near-ish future, I've started to rethink my position on owning.
And so I've been poking around online, scouting out what's in the neighborhood. My dad, Maddie, and I went to an open house over the weekend, and I confess I've been kind of obsessed with the house we saw ever since. It was new! LEED certified! Drafts did not blow through the windows! I think the windows even had screens! It had NO YARD, just a patio! (Words cannot describe how much I hate yardwork.) The garage and the house were attached to each other! Gas fireplace! Grounded outlets throughout, lots of them! Dishwasher! Two blocks from MAX! Quiet street! Closets everywhere! Bathrooms everywhere!
OK, I need to calm down.
So, yeah, leases and money and details like that and I don't really know what's going to happen next here. But it's nice to feel settled, to feel like I want to commit to being somewhere long-term. Historically, that hasn't really been my thing. Over the course of my life, I've lived in five states and three countries, in more dwellings than I could easily count. I always thought I'd have some kind of international jet-setting career.
But guess what? I'm getting older. The idea of Maddie and Riley having the stability of never switching schools unless we choose for them to is appealing. Being a part of a place, committing to membership in a community sounds comforting rather than confining.
In other news: in addition to getting older, I'm getting fatter. And my new haircut has revealed all kinds of grey hair that I didn't know I had! Crikey. The times, they are a' changin', in all kinds of ways.