February 29th, 2008
I love my house, I really do. (I also love my town. I want to do a photo walk of its main drag one day, because it’s such an interesting street. Bums! Hippies! Surfers! And I would NOT have it any other way.)
But my main point for now: my house is great. It’s light, it’s bright, it’s open.
But it’s not mine. And that’s the thing.
We rent. Here in San Diego, if we didn’t rent, we’d be somewhere else. Somewhere we’re too spoiled to be. We even got pre-qualified for $546K about six months ago, but know that would only buy us a two-bedroom fixer and after paying the mortgage, we’d have no fixin’ money. And now, with the new rate restrictions, we qualify for much less. So we stay where we are.
I really love this house. But it’s not mine.
It’s hard to completely attach to it. To claim it. To feel a part of it, rather than a person in it.
The irony (I’ve never used irony correctly) is that for most of my life, I’ve felt like a renter in one way or another. So the pull to own a home that is mine, really mine, is so strong that it’s always bubbling in me, and it’s a hurty bubble, like gas.
As a young kid, I never lived in any one city — or home — for long. Roughly once a year, we moved and so didn’t set down roots anywhere. I came to accept this as my life and it didn’t bother me too much. The world was big and I wanted to know it. BUT, I also wanted to belong. To be enmeshed in the community. To know the kids in my first grade class all the way through eighth grade. To say things like “remember that time Eddie threw up in science class?” “Or how about when Patty fell off the top of the slide?” But every year, I made a new best friend in a new town and right when they might become an old best friend, we moved.
Finally, we settled for 8 years in a Chicago suburb. We moved there smack dab in the winter and halfway through my fourth grade year. I’d grown used to taking it slow with people, not getting too attached, and so this was the way it went. But then! I went to fifth grade in the same school! And then sixth! And I graduated from the eighth grade at the SAME school! And I knew my neighbors and I saw the little kid next door grow up and I babysat for Sarah Lynn and would you look at her now?
When I went to high school. I attended with my best friend and other people I’d known for 5 years, a record. I began to feel a part of the flow of life in my town. To know the secret way to the ice cream shop. To know where to ride my bike. Where the best hot dogs were, how to take shortcuts through the golf course, where the town’s basketball hero ate lunch.
I was a Chicagoan. At least that’s how I defined myself.
Then, right after I graduated from high school, we moved again. To San Diego. And oh how I loathed San Diego. The town shone too bright, people were too frivolous, the palm trees looked fake. No one my age even talked about college, and if they did, it was how they had been going for 6 years. Meanwhile, my friends attended nice midwestern universities and carried their lives on, able to return home on break to the neighborhood where they’d lived forever. How I wanted that continuity in my own life.
I grew depressed in the new tract home where I now lived with my family. I watched my neighbor, the same age as me, from the window as he got in his car to meet friends and go out for the evening. I envied the easy assimilation into life, the comfort of acceptance, the familiarity of people, a place. I missed my friends, I hated the San Diego scene and I barely said a word to anyone for three months.
Eventually, I transferred to Marquette University in Milwaukee and felt like I was home again. I saw people I’d known since grade school and I belonged there. I was a part of their history, as they were a part of mine. I had a place.
But my parents lived in San Diego and so I was not a midwesterner anymore. I picked up after graduation and moved home, then spent the next six years between San Diego, Milwaukee, Chicago and Los Angeles. I was untethered and mobile.
Seven years after they’d moved to San Diego, my parents moved to Northern California, and again, I didn’t have a childhood home to return to, or call my own. By this time, my friends were getting married and having kids and making plans to put them in the preschool they’d attended as children. I felt like I didn’t have anything in common with them — the people who’d cemented my “belongingness” — and I was a floater, whereas they’d settled in one place and for them, everything remained as it always had.
I felt detached and unconnected, moving outside the flow of life, rather than inside it. I was an outsider. Not a Chicagoan anymore, not an anything. I lacked a definition. I wanted a definition.
When I met The Rock and soon moved to San Diego to be with him, I started anew. Yet this time, I began to like the city. He felt like home, and so did San Diego. Now, I’ve been here almost 10 years — longer than anywhere I’d ever lived, and I want to officially set roots down. And although I still call myself a “Chicagoan,” I know it’s not my home. My home is here, with my family, where my roots grow.
So I want a home that’s our own, where my kids know we’ll celebrate Christmas every year, where they’ll know the kids from school year to year to year, where they ride the best bike paths and find the quickest shortcut to the ice cream shop. Inside, I know home is where you make it, but I just can’t shake the feeling that I don’t completely belong in this house. We don’t own it. We carefully watch the imprints we make on it — the nicks, the smudges, because this house belongs to someone else.
I yearn to raise my kids in a house, our house, where 18 years later, I watch as my daughters make their way down the front walk to college. Then back again.
I know how lucky I am to have a beautiful place to live. I despise my wanting more. Why can’t this be enough? What I want comes from the inside anyway. And I’m sorry I feel this way. Yet.
I love my house. But it’s not mine.