When we’re growing up, we’re given the impression that as we get older we will discover what we are truly good at, what we’re really interested in, and then go off and make ourselves a career of that. We’ll do that thing until we retire, and while retirement means different things to different people, we generally view it as a time of leisure, to enjoy ourselves and live off our accumulated work, spend time with family, that sort of thing.

As we reach adulthood, we usually come to discover that the world is vastly more complex than we thought. Our own interests more nuanced, challenges are not so easy as they seemed, and simply diving into a fascinating lifetime career isn’t always the way forward. Some people find themselves doing things that they’re good at, things that may even pay fairly well, but don’t fulfill them in the ways that they thought life was supposed to. Maybe it’s not as exciting or glamorous as we envisioned, maybe we thought we were “special”. We end up searching for a purpose, something more meaningful.

Along the way, we may start families, build friendships, move to new cities, come up with dreams and plans and new ambitions. Sometimes we simply cling to ambitions we held as children, convincing ourselves they will yet come to pass, that we’ll conquer the world… next year. Maybe we’ll start a business, earn passive income online, invest in real estate, win the lottery, travel the world and eventually get the glamorous life we know must be in store for us. In the meantime we watch television, play games, and read books.

Sarah and I decided to buy a crappy house and fix it up ourselves. This was our dream and our plan. Maybe it wasn’t going to give meaning to our lives, but it was a way to stretch ourselves and do something more than just watch TV. We both knew what we were getting into and we both didn’t. I think what we didn’t know was that we were going to have less than half as much time to work on the house as we planned, and that everything would be twice as much work as we imagined, meaning it will take four times as long to finish.

Part of the reason we bought the house was that our condo was small, and Sarah was pregnant with our first child, Derek. He’s two now and our second is due in the next few weeks, maybe sooner. The upstairs unit of our house where we’re living is smaller than our condo. I tried for a while to really push, working on the house every day, as much as I could. The result was that it didn’t seem to go much faster, I was more worn out, and we weren’t as happy. It seems the regular pace is the one that works for us, no matter how long it takes.

Working on the house is frustrating, time consuming, and expensive, but I do derive satisfaction from it, and imagining what it will be like when it’s done keeps me going and makes me smile. The house presents challenges and problems to solve, mental far more than physical. I know that I’m getting better at the work, day by day. I may not attain the level of craftsmanship that I aspire to, but I keep trying. I just hope that by the time we get to trim work I’ll be good enough to make it look nice.

We envisioned working on the house together, but between pregnancies, kids, and graduate school, Sarah hasn’t been as hands-on as she’d hoped. Instead we’ve been overwhelmed by family and friends who have volunteered their time to help us with this crazy project. It’s made us feel very grateful for the people around us.

I’m still dreaming of winning the lottery or stumbling upon the amazing idea that changes the world. Until that happens I’m going to keep working on this house. It’s more than something to do, more than just a hobby. It’s building a home for myself and my family. It’s a purpose.

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2 Responses to Purpose

  1. kiki says:

    I started following you a few months ago. We are working on buying our first house. While difficult and frustrating its by no means as bad as what you’ve gone though. Thank you for sharing your experience. Quick question: who did you use for home insurance?

  2. Matt says:

    We have Amica. We’ve been happy with them.

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