Coming into one’s own

Originally published 8/20/13

I just got back from a week long vacation. Well, almost a week. The place was a small cabin, very old, owned by a close friend of mine. It’s been in the family for four generations now and it lives on a little plot of land a minute’s walk from the shores of a little lake, surrounded by evergreens and other cabins, large and small, old and new. Three things make this place ideal for my vacation: it’s free, it’s close, and it’s far from civilization. the first is self explanatory. For the mere contribution of a bottle of good wine, I can enjoy the quiet solitude of a private dock, the comfort of a dim living room with a huge old fireplace, and the pastoral sounds of the neighbor’s guinea hens scratching outside and children running on the grass behind them. The location is about a six hour drive from Seattle, forty minutes from my brother and his young son, and a little over an hour from my parents’ home. In fact I got to see them again and host them in this little home in the woods. It was the first time I met my little nephew. My brother has been serving in the armed forces for the last six years so finally having all of us together in one place was unusual. I’ve mentioned before that I love and respect my family, despite our opposing worldviews and generation gap. Hosting my parents and brother, even though it wasn’t my home, exactly, opened my eyes to something interesting.

Parents require their children to do chores. Said children hate those chores, as best I can tell. There’s a reason that parents feel good when they’ve accomplished something and kids don’t care. When a parent (it helps if they own their home) finishes a chore around the house, they have just improved their own personal wealth. When the porch is freshly painted or the gravel driveway is finally raked out or the vinyl flooring is finally in place, the value of their home and of their life situation has just gone up. For the child, it’s nothing like that. He or she just had to do something which they will eventually leave behind. It’s the same reason most renters won’t improve the property they live on: it’s not helping them at all. They finish any improvements knowing their time and effort and any money they expended are leaving them and will not come back. Well, I finally felt like a home owner. Since this property belongs to a close friend and I will likely have access to it for the rest of my life, I am invested in it’s improvement. I finally felt good about chopping wood for winter and cleaning the rafters and fixing the plumbing. I know that, while I may not own it, it is in my life for good and the improvements will not be left behind me. It’s empowering. Upon returning to Seattle, I am even more motivated to learn and improve myself, because no one else owns this. No one else will ever take my improvements from me. What more motivation does one need to improve oneself?

With this little epiphany behind me, I’ve enrolled in one of the community colleges nearby and will be taking classes now, on what I’m not sure yet. To you, my reader, this means even less time available to you and it means our time together is even more valuable and sacred and it means I look forward to it even more now than I did before 🙂