Waiting for this fever to break
This newsletter is So Relatable!
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Right now, I have a very bad case of real estate fever. It flares up every few months, a lingering affliction I can’t quite kick. Signs that I am suffering include large quantities of HGTV, endless scrolling through house listings, and, in acute cases, weekend visits to open houses in desirable neighborhoods.
Now, let me be clear: real estate fever is not life-threatening. In some instances, it can actually be good, a sign that you're ready to commit to a house, a city, a life. Build equity! Put down roots! Never again ask a landlord for permission to paint the walls, or replace a broken fence, or build an elaborate chicken coop! You don’t need to convince me that homeownership is good. Did I mention my raging fever?
The problem, of course, is that it’s an affliction I can’t currently afford.
My day job requires reading a lot about the financial services industry. Last week I came across an article that said the 7th biggest originator of home loans is, and I kid you not, the “Bank of Mom and Dad.” Which makes sense. Currently, the average price of a home in Wilmington is $225,500. If we wanted to make a down payment of 20%, the oft-cited norm, we would have to save $45,000. Spoiler alert: we do not have $45,000 just laying around!
(Yes, I know you can buy a home with a lot less these days, but I am making a point.)
Sure, if we’d started saving when we were 25 years old instead of going back to school over and over, maybe that would be possible. But I doubt it! And according to that article, even the people who own homes haven't actually achieved it, at least not on their own. They had behind-the-scenes help, and I wish people were more open about that. I wouldn’t judge them for it (well, not much) but at least it would put things in perspective. Instead of feeling bad about my failures, I could be jealous of their luck, which is honestly a lot easier to handle.
Instead, I’m stuck daydreaming about owning a house, wanting something I can’t have. Suddenly, our rental house, which on most days is very cute and quite affordable and has a brand new roof care of Hurricane Florence, is full of flaws. The kitchen is too small, sharing a bathroom is tragic, there’s no good place to put a kitchen table, all my plants are begging for more light, the neighbors keep parking on their lawn. The fever spreads, infecting everything around me.
Once, in college, I heard a Buddhist monk speak on campus. (Gotta love art school.) He used pizza as a metaphor for desire, which was immediately relatable. “When you take that first bite,” he said, “it’s wonderful. You’ve never tasted anything so delicious. But the second slice is not quite as good. The third slice, even less so. By the time you eat the fifth slice, you’re sick of pizza. The pleasure you felt initially, like all pleasure, was fleeting.”
I’m probably mangling the story, but I remember how it affected me - so profoundly that I’m writing about it twenty years later. (But also still eating pizza...) The point is that buying a house tomorrow would solve some of my problems. I might end up with a second bathroom, a dining room, south facing windows. Eventually, though, my dream house would begin to lose some of its charm. We’d want more space, an updated kitchen. We’d have to replace large, expensive things, and neighbors are always a gamble. Nothing is a dream forever. The fever always returns.
I still want to buy a house - and I will, one day. In the meantime, I hope I can ignore the fever long enough to learn patience, gratitude and how to be content in a space that isn’t perfect. To feel less desire and more joy. To accept that some things, like where the neighbors park, are out of my control. To eat pizza in my too-small kitchen, and appreciate the pleasure as long as it lasts.
Time Moves Too Quickly!, The Cut. I didn't write this letter to Ask Polly, but I could have. There's nothing I love more than some good existential angst.
Why You Want to Eat This Baby Up: It's Science, New York Times. "Reproductive desire seems like a big subject to have been bypassed by researchers... Maybe it was easiest to assume that everyone simply wanted a baby. But as birthrates decline in every developed country, it’s clear that’s not the case."
Why I'm Still Trying to Get a Book Deal After 10 Years, The Atlantic. "Some of my resolve to get published stems from my ego. Aren’t my words important? Isn’t there something of value here? Wouldn’t this story bring joy or peace to a reader? Another part of me craves having a visceral connection to an audience; it’s isolating to keep these stories to myself, to experience them alone."
✨ Snack of the Week ✨
Fig Newtons were always one of my favorite cookies, despite their lack of chocolate. (Hey, nobody's perfect.) When I saw these knock-offs at Trader Joe's, I had to give them a try. The verdict? Pretty good! Soft, chewy, sweet, and not the worst thing for you, health-wise. In fact, I just ate one with my morning coffee because I needed a little boost before my Sunday run. Reader, I feel boosted!
A Tiny Challenge
One of the best ways to get over the fact that you can't get everything you want is to improve what you already have. I've taken this to heart by slowly tidying my whole house, KonMari style. This week, clean out a drunk drawer or organize your pantry. It's not a cure for the fever, but it does help.
See you next Sunday! 💌
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