As the (still-distant) day when we can afford a home grows closer, my partner and I have started to look. Well, more than look — we’ve started “developing relationships” with realtors and lenders. So, you know. We’re looking.
And I’m quickly coming to understand that the way our parents’ generation looked at home-buying is not the way I do. From my in-laws to the guy behind the desk at the bank, they speak of carefully tallying up all the improvements you ever do, and weighing it against the price at which you’ll eventually sell it, and wanting to “come out on top” in our quest to “buy with resale in mind.”
I’m not against earning money, obviously — we’re certainly trying to earn enough to own our own home one day. But these lists and numbers carefully skirt treating all the years you spend in a house as an actual boon. A thing you are gaining upon purchase. Baby boomers, many of them it seems, can tell you every cent they spent on painting or repairing or landscaping a home, over decades, and they’ll gleefully tell you the exact amount they made over that when they sold the house. The house they raised their kids in, the house they became who they are in, the house that was their home for many, many years. The memories or sentiment don’t seem to matter to them, when they talk facts and figures so baldly. They speak of this place where they spent so much of their lives as just another stepping stone on the path to…what?
That is the heart of my disconnect with my parents’ generation. They’re still careening along as though everything is the way it was. As though there is something better always out there for them that they can seek and grab and hold close forever. Always something extra, always something more.
“This isn’t retirement central up here, you know. You’ve got to think about resale,” chortled our lender. I worked hard not to stare at him. Sir, I thought, what kind of glorious sunny palm tree-filled future do you think my generation is looking forward to? We have no social security (or we won’t), and we’re going to live long past the time anyone wants to hire us. We will likely have to work until we die, making less and less along the way, with no safety net beyond what we save. In my case, I’m likely to inherit a despicable and expensive disease, so hopefully I die before that, but one never knows. Do you think I imagine us retiring, my partner and I, me cognizant and aware, both of us well-off and secure, in some quaint little town somewhere it’s neither too hot nor too cold?
Are any of us that naive anymore?
It was reading Laura Hudson’s article on what she calls homecoming games that put me in mind of this. “The pleasures of home — both in games and in life — lie not in it being a place you never want to leave, but rather in being a place you want to leave, because it makes it so much more satisfying to come back to again and again and again.”
That is what I’m trying to find here, mortgage people.
Let me be clear: I do not sit around all day lamenting my monetary lot in life. I don’t write angry contributions to comment sections lambasting the baby boomers for the economy we will inherit. I, and I’m sure a great many others my age, just approach life a different way. I can’t realistically believe that I will have this triumphant mountain of success to climb with a prize at the end, like your basic side-scrolling platformer. There will be no condo in Hawaii for me; no red pickup truck with Sirius radio. Our generation doesn’t get to pursue that kind of linear narrative.
Rather, I’m trying to make it so that the place that I find myself, so often, will be somewhere I want to keep returning to. Snort if you will, but it’s like the difference between Skyrim and Generic Platformer #92. I’ll play the platformer, do the grind, win the prize, once. Maybe twice, for nostalgia, a decade later. But I’ll return to the world of Skyrim time and time again. It’s a space I know well, that I enjoy returning to. For years.
The home — not house — I am looking for will be like that. Hopefully.