Millennial Life: Chiseling into that American Dream
As we understood it, two brothers owned the house after their father had passed. One was in California, and one was in Texas. Neither really wanted to deal with the house anymore. They were in luck: I didn't want to deal with house shopping anymore. Turns out, I was one of the lucky millennials.
When my husband and I were ready to buy a house nearly seven years ago, our readiness was mostly a result of the urging of others and a hard look at the decay of the apartment complex we lived in. I had moved in during college, first into my own apartment and then hopscotching into a different unit with an ex-boyfriend. I even convinced my mom to move into the complex after my dad died.
I had a misplaced fondness for the place due to the grandparent-type caretakers who had lived on-site for years. But when the husband passed and the wife decided to move home to family, the complex changed.
It became an investment property for someone who lived states away, who decided to take out the pool and build empty promises for a renovated future that never came. Old trees were cut down. The mechanic handyman was pushed out. The calm, stoner residents moved out and were replaced with more aggressive neighbors trolling for fights. And, of course, the rent grew steadily. The time we invested in being "good" tenants had accrued no interest.
I figured I'd buy a house at some point in the misty future, but after a casual afternoon drive-by shot a ray of light through that mist, we had had enough. I wasn't looking for a picket fence, but I was looking for a place to grow roots in peace and not have them dug up for someone to optimize the value they could extract. I wanted to chisel my place into the American dream that belonged to me, a place where my effort could build something more for my family.
Except that dream isn't concrete; it's a malleable myth built on foundations that don't exist as they did. Perhaps even when they did, those foundations could only shelter those who already had the framework of privilege -- for example, parents to help with a down payment. Like I did.
In doing the math, which I hate, I don't think we would have been able to buy a house for years, if ever, without the help of my mom and my in-laws. But the math I hated more was how much I paid to rent over 10 years without having anything to show for it.
I blocked out most of our house-hunting memories. However, I remember clearly being in the house we live in now, with our daughter, still waddling with a diaper and chasing after a basketball likely tossed into the backyard by mistake. We stood in the kitchen with the realtor, and I leaned against the 1970s credenza. I watched my daughter laugh and then eyed the pink floral wallpaper again. I said, with a youthful spirit that an aging soul tends to lament: "Let's do it. I'm sure we can make it work."
It was ours to build up, even while we destroyed it. We enlisted friends and family to pull off the dreadful wallpaper and break through three layers of vinyl in our kitchen. Our community was the only thing that helped us pull it off, and still, we were the lucky ones.
We all want something that is ours, even within a community. We want space to create moments that lead to a life that isn't infringed upon to create a financial gain for someone else. Millennials may slowly start to recognize that any land that we inhabit is just for a brief moment; we are caretakers of the land just like we are caretakers for a modified dream for the future. And when that dream passes from our hands and hearts to the next generation, perhaps our children's choice might be similar, and they will give our home to another young family who just needs a chance.
Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She is also the Executive Director of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.