Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27, 2010 ~ Day 18
At Home In The World

I love to move. I know that probably sounds crazy, because most sane middle-aged adults (especially the ones with children) like to find a place to live, make it wonderful and build a life there. I'm not even sure where my yearning to move comes from, since I lived for the first seventeen years of my life in the same house. As a creature of habit who loves tradition, you'd think I would dig my heels in and hold on to one of these places.

Maybe we haven't found the right house yet. There have been only three structures in my 35 years that really felt like "home" to me... out of the many dorms, apartments, condos, houses and craftsmen-style bungalows I have inhabited. Not including college, I have lived in fifteen different places in the past fourteen years. Some were extremely short-lived... (the record: slightly more than 2 weeks in Studio City, Los Angeles) while one special place near the beach lasted a five full years until I met my husband.

Lately this same wonderful man has been motivated to explore the potential for us to own our own home again... which we did once, for about a year. I've gotta say, I'm not as thrilled about this as most women would be. I love the idea of trying something new, but hate the finality that would come with being locked into a mortgage. I'm sincerely uncomfortable with what could happen to us financially if we invest in a place and realize down the road that it isn't right for our family for a variety for reasons including quality of local schools, bad neighbors, electrical or plumbing problems, mold or even crime. If the economy takes another dive, the "asset" of owning a home might turn out to be a real liability... at least in the short term.

A house is a really big commitment. Other than having children, buying a home with the one you love is one of the heaviest commitments two people can enter into together of their free will.

That said, I love my husband and it is really important to him to own a house.

So, I've been looking around. Not at specific houses, rather, I've been checking out different communities in our city. Trying to get a sense of their flavor... the people who live there... whether we would fit in or be happy.

And so far I've discovered that I don't feel at home anywhere right now. I'm hoping this is a feeling that will pass.

There are four main communities I've been checking out. For the sake of privacy, I'll give them their own special monikers.

(a) Wealthytown - This beach community has great schools and a pretty affluent demographic. I used to teach there and I know firsthand that some (although certainly NOT all) of the folks there can be a little snooty. I really love the safety of the neighborhoods and the excellence of the schools. That said, I don't feel that comfortable in Wealthytown. I feel like I would constantly be making jokes about my thrift store clothing and our stained furniture, just to sort of laugh off how pricey everything is in this place. I worry that my children would grow up with a false sense of reality, living in a place that is a fantasy-land compared to so much of our country. Wealthytown is also hard to access from the freeway, which would make my husband's commute to work a little difficult.

(b) Hometown - This beach community is where I grew up. It is just as beautiful as Weathytown but with less pretension and a lot less expensive. Many couples our age live there now, even though when I was growing up there were almost no families with children in my neighborhood. I guess a lot of those older folks who lived around us when I was growing up have now passed on, leaving behind a relative abundance of older fixer-upper homes in a safe neighborhood with good elementary schools. The problem with Hometown is that it is a little isolated. There are very few parks to take the children to, few grocery stores, even the post office and bank are relatively challenging to access. I can see this causing problems on a daily basis. The middle school and high school are apparently nothing to write home about either, so a move to HomeTown wouldn't likely be permanent.

(c) ArtyGritty Town - This inland community has a host of awesome craftsmen houses, many of which are in great condition and might even be within reach financially. It is very close to one of our favorite areas of the city to go out in for dates... an urban area that has enjoyed gentrification recently and now plays host to several outstanding local restaurants and pubs. Most of our "cool" friends from the local music scene live around or near this area and we lived there too for about three years. We loved it. When I see the kind of people walking their dogs, skateboarding or pushing their strollers along the streets I do feel very connected to them. It is a vibrant, diverse area. The problem? The flight path, local schools are not very good and there is significantly more crime than where we live right now. It would be tough to move back with kids, knowing those things.

(d) OurTown - The beach community where we currently live is beautiful, clean, safe and has highly rated schools and great parks. We've lived here for three years now and we both mostly love it. There is a pretty nice mix of people here thanks to local military families. There are just a few major drawbacks. First, we will never be able to own our own home here as it is one of the most expensive communities in the United States. Staying here will consign us to renting forever. Secondly, transportation becomes an issue since there are limited routes to enter and leave OurTown... routes that could easily become significantly compromised in the event of an earthquake or other disaster. This becomes even more concerning when it comes to our children. Were an earthquake to happen while my sons were at school and I was away from OurTown running errands, I literally might not be able to get back to them at all. I'm not really ok with that.

These are the four main areas that my husband and I have narrowed down within our city for long-term living. There are countless other neighborhoods but since we both grew up in this city, we know the others well enough to know that these are the 4 for us. Yet, I spent all day today driving around the streets of these neighborhoods with my kids and I didn't feel pulled toward any single one of them. Hours and hours devoted to combing each block for rent and sale signs, and I came home feeling far more confused than when I left. I've been looking around like this for weeks and our options seem blurrier now than they did before we started the hunt.

I don't feel at home in the world, right now. I want to be wherever my husband and children are... but I'm not sure where that should be.

I realize that this is the kind of negligible problem that billions of people around the world would love to have. "Gee, poor you," they would think, "Should you choose the nice community... or the nice community! What a tough life." And they would be right. I have no right to complain. I am grateful for the options we have, and we are lucky to have options.

I just wish I knew where we belonged. I wish there was one community calling our names so loudly that it was impossible to ignore. I wish I would awaken with a fire in my belly and a vision in my head which made it really clear that we were meant to stay here in OurTown forever... or uproot and head across the city and hunker down in Wealthytown.

If I drive down enough streets, sometimes in circles, it is easy to start feeling a little lost. Is there meaning in this pursuit? I choose to believe that the answer is YES. If we keep traveling all roads with clear eyes and an open heart, sooner or later, one of them will surely lead us home. I'll let you know when my family actually gets there.

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