When I went back home over the Thanksgiving Holiday, I spent a little bit of time with my childhood friend, Sara*, who always had a bit of competition going with me. We were frienemies for much of our adolescent years, but as we got older we started to get along again.
This trip home I got to see her brand new house. While she’s still in school, she’s engaged to an engineer who seems to be footing most of the bill for the residence. To give Sara credit, she’s also working full time while studying full time. She’s also terribly judgmental and seems to think that if one is renting it’s silly because you should just buy a house. She also thinks her house isn’t big enough, despite that only two people will be living there and it has four bedrooms (two will be used for offices, one for a guest room.)
The other thing is, back on the east coast, you can get a lot more for your money. Her house, which cost about $475k, costs as much as a studio does out here in The Bay Area. Nuts. So she’s living an hour from NYC and can get a damn house for that. A nice house. With a pool in the backyard.
She is doing tons of renovations to the house (well, her fiance is… he’s redoing the entire inside.) She’s in charge of the design. He does the work. They both seem fairly happy about it. They own a home. Sara owns a home. She’s 25. Like me.
I got back to California a few days ago. The bright winter sun warmed my skin as I stepped out the door in the morning. I took my daily drive down 280, a highway which has a beauty that never grows old despite how often I drive it. I smiled because here I feel so happy, and what makes me happy here is entirely free. The nature, my boyfriend, the sun. Even my job – for the most part – makes me happy here. So I figure back east people need huge houses to decorate because everything else is so fugly. Or at least in Jersey, where I grew up.
Still, I’d like to own a house. At least, I think I would. But I’m not dating an engineer. I’m dating a guy who makes $17 an hour and refuses to ask for a raise. It makes me nervous that who I’m with defines partly what my life will be. When, or if I’ll ever be able to afford a house. And I’m jealous of my friend who is marrying a very charming engineer. And I wonder if I ought to be strategic when it comes to love over the long term. Or if I should just deal with the fact that I’ll be part of the disappearing middle class, able to rent but probably not to own. These sorts of things have me rather attracted to any men I meet who have that breadwinner sort of vibe. That’s a dangerous thing to feel… especially when there are so many men out there who take pride in making money. My boyfriend, on the other hand, would be more than content living in a cardboard box… as long as he had access to a daily shower.
So with him, it’s up to me to make my fortune. To earn it. And I don’t trust that I’m the type who can make that kind of money. I mean, enough to buy a house. A house in the bay area. With a view of something other than another house. And a little bit of land. And such.
What is my American Dream? Do I need to date someone different to achieve it? Should I be envious of my friend… or just determined to prove I can make enough money to support myself and live a life of relative luxury?