The time has come. After almost 30 years at the same address we’re leaving the old house. There are no overwhelming reasons why we have to go now. None that apply to us materially anyway. The place has stood by us well. It’s been a haven when other parts of our lives were out of synch with the world and sometimes with each other. Interest rates were soaring at levels four and five times today’s numbers. We’d already renewed at the previous place at more than double the mortgage payments. When we bought it our then new house was still a stretch Come spring I had to find a second hand electric lawn mower when our old hand version jammed up in our meadow of a backyard. We hadn’t budgeted for that! However, this new house with the evergreens and its big pie shaped lot on the cul de sac came with an assumable, more modest mortgage rate. Bottom line: same payment as the last place for much more house. Only taxes stood out as notably higher.
Of course a home like that, a home like this, a home we were lucky to get, is not usually one you’re in a hurry to leave. A dozen years later, the market offered big deals on bigger units. Strictly speaking on the merits, we should have jumped then. Yet the kids were already off to schools at opposite ends of the country and we were making big career shifts, a risky time all round. For the next few years we hunkered down and watched the world go by as that old piece of doggerel about the house on the side of the road suggests. We didn’t do much to the building in those years as children came and went, then came and went again. I remember we did finally make some alterations when the basement with its stucco walls and arch, smoky mirrored tiles and pine panels, dated industrial carpet, shag covered wet bar and wagon wheel chandelier ceased to be an even remotely amusing conversation piece. The upstairs bathroom too with its truly basic flooring and sliding tub doors screamed for change.
Our house became a warehouse for aging memories. The generation we felt would be around forever was suddenly all gone. Dutifully, we took on the family furniture and treasures, or maybe not so much dutifully but because we couldn’t think of alternatives, or maybe more wouldn’t than couldn’t. Most of the old inherited inventory survived the big renovation we finally undertook. After 20 years, new windows, hardwood floors, proper stairs, wardrobes, a whole new granite and stainless steel kitchen with a pass through, cupboards, ceramic tiles painting inside and out it made a great difference on some levels. We’ve also been grateful for the old furniture. Some of it is actually valuable and a few of the pieces are quite exotic, interesting collectibles by any measure. To be truthful, however, much of it is just plain aging junk. It hurts me a little to say that still. Only a twinge, but that is also at the crux of our decision.
We need to say good-bye to all that. The reason is not because we aren’t comfortable here. The reason is because we have so much else to do. Sometimes you want to be reminded of something important to be done so you tie a string around your finger. What happens when the string becomes a whole ball of twine or if you prefer a more dramatic image, a millstone? In her thoroughly and intelligently researched book, Working Identity, Herminia Ibarra observed how people who make big career changes, don’t do it overnight. The overt change itself might be abrupt. Normally that’s how such things work, but big change is preceded by a series of experiments, much questioning, subtle shifts and values clarifications. These can take awhile, many are invisible, some take the form of hobbies or unusual vacations, but big things are happening below the surface. Then at some point comes an ah-ha moment. After that, the old life with its comforting patterns is no longer good enough. We’ve had a glimpse of something we want much more. The identity makeover model applies to more than work. If home is where the heart is, then when the heart moves on….
That’s where I am, where we’re at. We own the house but we’re renting the life that goes with it. This is our tipping point. The house no longer holds the same meaning although it still represents years of accomplishment and a refuge that was once important. Nevertheless psychologists tell us that the logic that leads us to keep our options open, to hold back on a decision only confuses us by preventing us from moving forward. There’s a brief period where you recognize it’s generally smarter to have to make another decision later than to not make one now. We will want to honor the old homestead when we leave by being selective in what we take. Life will be different, more nomadic maybe, definitely more concentrated and decidedly better.