In part two of my “Hands and Feet” series, I will be discussing some of the struggles we faced when we bought our first house. For most people, buying a home is exciting and anxious all at the same time. Buyers get to tour their potential next place, and usually get time to decide on which home they want to buy. Now of course, the type of experience they have can depend on a few things: the current market, their budget, their real estate agent, and the expectations they bring to the home buying process. Everyone’s experiences are different, and of course looking back, I understand this. But at the time we bought our first home, I was so busy trying to compare, and unconsciously competing with my peers, that I didn’t even realize what I had gotten my family into until it was too late.
I’ve always had a weakness for comparison. You’d think as an only child I’d be quite the independent spirit. And while I march to the beat of my own drum, quite often I made sure that drum was a part of a bigger, much more popular band, that it’s beat often complimented, if not falling in line with, the other drums around me. I desperately wanted to be sure that I was doing things the right way, and that usually meant using other people’s experiences, and sometimes possessions, as a benchmark. I have wrote about my struggle through comparison and life position before, and I have cited that I had a problem with being okay with my place in life. We all grow up with dreams and certain ideas about what we want for our lives. It’s normal to have goals and aspirations. What’s not normal, is constantly making decisions based on what someone else has done. This was my mistake; it’s what I had been doing since before puberty. My need to compare myself with my peers could be considered a motivating factor for why I’ve strived for things for which I was not yet ready. And shamefully I must say that all I have done in my life has been my blinded effort to live up to the expectations of what’s supposed to happen by a certain time, sometimes those things influenced by what other people have done as well. And when I suggested we buy a home upon moving to Colorado, it wasn’t because we were financially ready or of the idea that we’d be there for a long enough time to justify such a decision. It was simple really. The on-post housing options weren’t very desirable, and rent in Colorado Springs was pricey. But most important of all, we were in our 30’s… wasn’t it time to buy a house anyway.
You see, there is a right of passage associated with buying a home and adulthood. Most people feel a sense of accomplishment when that goal is reached; home ownership being the very thing to mark what it truly means to be an adult. I had friends who were buying homes, and for me, it meant that perhaps we could buy a home too. Luckily, we had the finances to secure a loan and be approved for a decent amount. But emotionally we weren’t ready, and being an active duty family, our life’s position did not warrant this move as being something we should do at this time. I didn’t care, however. I just wanted to be normal; to feel normal. To have something to talk about at adult dinner parties and what not. What it meant to be a home owner… I’d finally have something to say about it. But in my attempts to meet life expectations unprepared, I had no idea what we were in store for.
We didn’t have the best luck with finding a home we liked in our price range. And for the two we loved, we waited too long to make an offer. I learned very quickly that real life home buying experiences were much more different than those that I had watched on television as a kid. In this market, if you wanted a house, you better be ready to make an offer, even sight unseen. Most times, distant buyers had to do that, buy a house sight unseen, and our realtor convinced us that we could trust her and her team to be our eyes and ears, to find a home that would fit our family best. And so we did. We trusted her. And when all else was seeming to be lost, we finally settled on a house that wasn’t great, but it wasn’t too bad… or so I thought.
It’s important to understand here that when your intuition tells you something, you better listen to it. It’s there for that reason… to keep your butt out of trouble. The only problem is that I was a notorious anxiety-riddled woman in my husband’s and my mother’s eyes. When I told them my concerns with this home, that I was having second thoughts, they simply assumed that I was nervous and it would be fine. I trusted them too. But when we arrived in Colorado Springs on that June afternoon and entered what would be our home for the next few years for the first time, we understood just how unprepared we were to deal with our decision to buy. There were problems everywhere, problems I didn’t know existed because we had bought sight unseen. Like who even does that!? There were issues that I believe to be more cosmetic and risked safety. There was a water issue in the foundation that we didn’t find out about until we had two bouts with flooding in our den, the first happening merely a month after we had moved in. There were issues with our plumbing upstairs and a cabinet/counter top piece that wasn’t even secured to the wall. Before our household goods even came, we were planning remodels and major drywall repairs. We had to buy for mold removal and for new carpet padding. We had to file insurance claim upon insurance claim because we had hail damage that revealed that the new roof we were told was there was in fact installed incorrectly. There were exposed wires on the outside of the home that although were found to be inactive and nothing to worry about, still freaked me out. We learned that the home would continue to have flooding issues because of the slant of the yard coming toward the home which encouraged water to rush toward the home instead of away from it. We learned that although Colorado was considered a dryer climate, there was still a season of torrential downpours that characterized the mid summer months. Our finances were quickly vacuumed up in the series of home improvement projects brought about by a need to make this house feel like a home, at least somewhat. My peers might have had a great home buying experience and done everything according to plan, but I quickly realized that once again my need to keep up with the Jones’ put my family in a situation that was potentially unsafe.
I often wonder what it would’ve been like if we had moved on post instead. Sure, we would’ve more than likely encountered similar problems but it wouldn’t have been our responsibility to fix it. We probably spent more time fixing up this house than actually enjoying it, which I think says a lot about our decision. I often wonder why I didn’t listen to my intuition, why I didn’t just get out of the deal when I could’ve. I often wonder why we couldn’t have scored a home that was newer or just remodeled. Why why why? Well, I believe it was to teach me a very difficult lesson, while helping me to become a little more self-sufficient and a little more confident. When you are constantly comparing your life’s journey with those around you, it hinders what God has in store for you. There cannot be a time constraint on what we are supposed to accomplish because everyone is different. Everyone has a different purpose in life, and when we all achieve at different points in our lives, it becomes a story that can be told to everyone. As a military family, our time in any given place is never for certain. We were supposed to be in Colorado for the prescribed three years, but because my husband got an offer for a special assignment here in DC, we ended up leaving a year earlier. When you live on post, it’s easy to get out of housing upon receiving orders; you simply just turn in your orders with your notice. However, buying or renting off post provides a challenge when your time at your duty station has been fulfilled. We were lucky to find out we were leaving for DC in November, 8 months before we were scheduled to be here. We were fortunate enough take our time in getting the home ready for sale. Toward the end of our time there, we ran into a few bumps including losing our first buyer and having to place the house for sale again with only 3 weeks until we were slated to leave. This would’ve never been a problem had we just done what was best for our lives from the get go. In our home ownership experience, I had to learn to think outside the box and to be careful with the choices I made. We were responsible for any changes we made to the house, and with that in mind, I made sure that whatever we chose to do, it would only add value to the home. I learned to roll up my sleeve and learn how to do different projects myself. I learned to lean on my neighbors and friends for help, and I learned what I could live with and what I could live without. The entire experience was a hard lesson but one that without it, I wouldn’t have the story I have to tell to you today.
Comparison is a fault that befalls us all, and social media doesn’t help. Our parents didn’t have the same pressure we do when it comes to accomplishments. We broadcast everything we do and experience online for everyone to see. It used to be that you had no idea what your friends from college were up to until you talked to them on the phone, or saw them at the reunion some years later. Now, we are pummeled with images of everyone’s seemingly happy and perfect lives. People love to show off all the good things because why not? But what’s important to realize is that people show off what they want to show off. No one is completely honest on social media because who wants to see bad things as they happen to good people. We are obsessed with image and what we portray to those around us, even those who we don’t know. It’s important to understand that despite the vast amount of stuff we are exposed to everyday, it is not the most accurate reflection of life. You will have a different life journey, some which seems more palatable than others. It’s hard to focus on ourselves when there is so much to distract us. But just like books, we are all created in different genres, with different characters, and different plot lines. We will all have different plot twists that make our lives so special. And it’s only when we let go of the things we can control and trust that things are going to be okay, even if it seems that we are behind the eight ball, things will start to happen for the good.