Writers are usually emotional people. They’re a type of artist, so like all creative people, they live with full imaginations and deep personal investment. I tell everyone that I’m the most practical artist I’ve ever met. I don’t get worked up about most things and can generally allow most of life to slide off my back.
But every once in awhile something happens to remind me that this claim only works when comparing myself to other artists. As soon as I measure myself against the general public, I lose all bragging rights to common sense pragmatism. I am, it would seem, an artist, too.
John and I thought we were buying our first house this week. It’s a big life step. And honestly, not our first attempt at home ownership. It’s been a long year-and-change of searching, finding a place we love, attempting to put in a bid, and having it all fall through.
But this place felt different. It felt familiar, somehow. Fated. Very close to what I’d been picturing in my head for years. It was a bit of a Fixer Upper, but that only endeared me more to it.
Maybe it was the artist in me. Maybe the woman. Maybe an unfair mix of both. But almost immediately my mind took over ownership. Before we’d even signed a single paper, I’d replaced the kitchen floor twice, and packed each of the extra bedrooms with multiple children. My claws sank in deep before I even knew what I was holding onto.
The bank approved a loan. The sellers agreed to our price. We signed enough papers to get carpel tunnel. And then, while waiting for the final rounds of approval, we had fun. We researched DIY websites. Strolled through Home Depot, marking prices. Planned a giant party with everyone we’ve ever met invited. This was the farthest we’d ever gotten in the home-buying process, so this time it was surely real.
And then we brought in the home inspector.
At first I resisted the man’s negativity. It’s his job to find flaws; that doesn’t make this house particularly bad. But as he went through room by room detailing costly safety hazards, that practical Emily started fighting for her voice again. First I simply re-budgeted – the kitchen can have cheap linoleum and I can kill off a few children.
Truthfully, I have often made decisions that were impractical and said ‘yes’ to my artistic nature. I got a degree in something as useless as English. I got married at 21, agreeing to marry a man I hadn’t known for even a full year yet. Then John and I moved to New York with a duffel bag of clothes and an air mattress in the trunk, clutching a meager sum in the un-cashable form of banker’s checks. I will loudly proclaim that it can be wonderfully brave to do the foolish thing; it has filled my life with adventure and story.
But I’m also a farm kid. I have a DNA weathered by millennia of gamblers who bet on the fickle risk of reaping from the earth. Who instinctively plan for unexpected elements. Who understand big loss and big reward. Who’s practiced discernment is as much a part of them as the smudged dirt that permanently stains their fingerprints.
So I understand that sometimes you gotta know when to fold your hand. To realize that even if everyone is watching your first jump off the high dive, there’s no shame in backing from the edge and going down the way you came.
“This job can be really hard,” the inspector admitted as he watched our faces grow more discouraged. “I often feel like I’m coming in and crushing people’s dreams.”
I nearly offered to pay him extra for being both honest and kind – a disappearing trait in today’s politically-charged atmosphere.
John and I spent some time thinking and researching. Trying to determine what we really, truly wanted deep down. And then trying to determine if what we wanted to do and what we should do were at odds. And finally, because I am the most practical artist I’ve ever met, I erased the mental picture I’d been curating, called my husband at work and said, “How would you feel about just walking away?”
This house had felt like mine, but it didn’t belong to me. It was meant for someone older. Someone with more life experience to put into fixing it, who had deeper pockets and fewer restrictions than First Time Home Buyer Loans regulate.
My yin and yang will probably always fight. And the artistic side will often win. Not because she should, but because she is spoiled and pouts, so it’s just easier to give in to her. She hasn’t lost very often these past few years, so when she does, she sits around moping and feeling her sorrow and writing exaggerated blog posts in her pajamas. It’s annoying, especially to my pragmatic side who has the responsibility of picking her up and shaking sense into her.
But pragmatism needs to win. Because her victory gives my whole self a sense of pride. She’s the one who grounds me and connects me back to my roots. She won’t allow the apple to roll so far from the tree that it can’t be sheltered from the rain. And it’s her influence that gives my artistic side a more unique voice in a world that is making far too many emotionally-driven decisions.
Which is all to simply say, it’s okay. In fact, it’s great. There’s sorrow but it’s mixed with intense relief, both at dodging a 30-year headache and knowing that I haven’t completely lost the ability to make decisions that are wise. The roots still hold, thank God.