Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Home and the American Dream

A funny thing happened to me after a few months of having gone from homeowner to renter. I slowly became less and less interested in anything that had to do with the aesthetics and improvement of my living space. Where in my previous two homes—which we owned—I was constantly thinking about potential improvements that would benefit my daily quality of life, all of a sudden I thought the piles of shelter magazines to which I subscribed were wasteful and superfluous. This emotion became so prevalent that I even began to disparage my profession, my writing, and participation in the world of design. Home, really is a funny thing.

For a long time my husband had been adamantly opposed to the idea of becoming renters. But this idea—that it makes a difference in your daily life whether or not you own your home, did not become tangible to me until nearly two years later once we began looking for our own home again.

Sure, the house we have been living in has been lovingly maintained and decorated beautifully, but that transitory feeling prevented us from ever gardening (something I now really miss) or re-thinking how furnishings should be arranged and the like. Then, came the time when our landlord notified us that we should be moving in 3 months due to the sale of the house we have been occupying. As soon as I began looking at houses to buy and began visualizing myself living in each of them, feelings of creating a home with a specific atmosphere, ambiance, function all quickly began to invade my mind. 24 hours a day I thought about rooms and color and landscaping. I literally dreamt about our new home.

So, what is it about owning a home that makes this switch turn on and off? Is the prized goal of achieving the “American Dream” so embedded in our psyche that we cannot control our feelings regarding the matter?

I remember at one moment while being a tenant that the issue of taxes came up. Someone mentioned that the federal government was considering eliminating the deduction of mortgage interest for homeowners. As I reflected on the subject, I thought, perhaps this is just. Why should I pay more taxes this year because I am in a transitory stage in which I do not own a home? Surely that doesn’t seem fair. In addition, this deduction or incentive must have fueled the fire of the crazy real estate boom in which people who could not afford to buy homes were buying them. So, I thought, yes, let’s get rid of this incentive in order to level the playing field for all hard-working Americans, whether or not they are currently in the position to own a home. Perhaps it would alleviate a bit of the shame all those Americans who have lost their homes feel, now that they have lost these coveted “privileges.” I realize this would never be a politically advantageous move for any lawmaker as all Americans dislike taxes more than they dislike just about anything I can think of. Taking their money is like outright refusing certain unalienable rights.

Now that I’m buying a house, I will be looking forward to next year’s interest deduction but could I live without it if I knew it were for the greater good of my country? Probably.

So I’m still trying to understand what it is about the human psyche that makes us want to own our little piece of earth. And isn’t that desire ultimately the source of countless wars and disastrous social experiments, such as communism? Or this is a Western construct?

Yes, now that I’m hoping to close on a house sometime soon, I think I’ll be blogging again too. How ironic and funny that thing called home really is.

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