It is one of the strange ironies of this strange life [that] those who work the hardest, who subject themselves to the strictest discipline, who give up certain pleasurable things in order to achieve a goal, are the happiest people.
We scale the driveway of my brother's new house. He was increasingly unsatisfied with the house he rented and had no interest in moving back to the one he owned and rented out. He upended his family, changing his children's school district for this house.
For the view alone, it would have been worth the sacrifice. That this view may be enjoyed nestled in a hot tub on his wraparound porch makes this home seem akin to a spa. Even as a family of eight, the home seems roomy. The older girls finally have their own rooms, which Alieyah immediately puts to use with catalog levels of decorating (so long as said catalogs stock all things Supernatural). Ayannah's had been an office, but Dan built shelving into one entry and began spackling it smooth.
Dan shows us around, pointing out all that the previous owner left behind. Some, like a plow truck, seems an absolute necessity of living here. Other things seem more akin to garbage left to be removed when one of my inquisitive nephews needs a tetanus shot.
He waves toward the quarter of a mile we drove up, saying he owns over seven acres that way. Behind the house a few minutes is the Appalachian trail. "Since it belongs to the state, that's ours too." It fills him with pride to own so much serenity around him.
He's turned the attached garage into a hang-out room for the kids, complete with a flat screen television and video games. Another, vast and hangar-like, is to be his personal CrossFit gym. Yet another, old and plywood, is still locked by some key he's yet to locate. He has so much in this home that he can leave this mystery unexplored, though my mother says it would drive her crazy.
This is where I want my niblings to grow up.
In complimenting Dan, I ask how I would ever get a place like this, short of filling every space on the New York Times Bestseller's List. He jokes back that, instead of working zero hours this summer (assuming my writing and panels do not factor into the equation), I would have had to work four hundred. I begin to say that I do not think my summer contained four hundred workable hours, but I realize that most people are not constrained to forty hours of work with a lunch break. I tell my mother that she failed me by encouraging me to go to college when the real money was clearly in just learning a trade and getting to work.
Dan has worked for everything he has. In the last few years of building his company, he had done at least a decade of work. His services in industrial automation are vied after enough that he has a waiting list of companies nationwide eager to work with him. Even if, as Amber quips, we are looking at his debt instead of his profit, he deserves this respite.
My mother says I would have this if only I kept looking, but she is fooling no one. This house cost more than I have made to date. Yes, she acknowledges, but I could have the right house for me, whatever that might mean. (I highly suspect my future house does not have a hot tub on the porch so what is even the point?)
Amber and I have stopped looking at houses. I currently blame her being in college again, but that had only been technically occurring for a week, no matter how many textbooks she has read in advance of her classes. I never much liked looking at houses since none seemed right. This one was great until property tax doubled the cost. This one was quaint and cute, but barely included the property around the foundation. This one was lovely and sold the day after we looked at it. At every step, because of my supposed lack of business acumen, I felt as though I were gambling with all my savings on a game I didn't know.
Dan's new home leads me to reevaluate what I need in my life. Certainly, I would not make good use of his house and, as becomes my catchphrase whenever Amber tries to buy me a gift, I don't like things.
Aside from perhaps a house and a newer car, there is not much I want that I could not purchase. I am satisfied by what I have, which should be the lion's share of contentment. I do wish to do right by Amber, though I am sure she would claim I've never done anything else so long as I've known her. I do not think she is best served in an apartment with no property, though her continued schooling does put a pin in that for a while. When next we are free to consider what we need in a home, I may not be the major breadwinner.
I will never claim that I am a hard worker, at least not where it counts. I pour literally hundreds of hours into books that almost no one reads and that my publisher nearly buries. I go through fits of discouragement where I am far less than prolific. If I wrote like Dan does industrial automation, maybe I would have people all over the country vying for my talent and skills. I am a proficient teacher or I couldn't live with myself working with adjudicated minors, but that job doesn't satisfy my ego.
Amber, however, is pursues her passions with a dedication I cannot but admire and envy. In a just world, one of her endeavors prior to a career in the veterinary sciences would have paid off, but her labor is not valued equitably, partially because some of it took place in the overlap between the arts and manual labor. What she has chosen to pursue either comes off as things people expect for free or that they treat as unskilled. Mostly, she shouldered disappointments from disinterest and circumstance, sighed, and dove back into the fray. She deserves a far better deal than she had gotten.
I could not do what she does any more than I could take up Dan's tool belt. They are both relentlessly pursue and research what they want, often in fields where they are underestimated. I am privileged to have such exemplars when I act too exhausted from forty hours of teaching juvenile gang members to continue pounding out stories.
Soon in Xenology: Faces.