Some thoughts on housing and vacation

Vacation is a wonderful thing. I spent last week in Lakeville, MA with my family where I had a chance to look back on the past few months which featured less casual painting and blogging, and more big efforts. In addition to an already busy schedule with my regular life and job, we’ve been preparing our first house to sell so we could move into the house we expect to last through our kids’ college years. We really loved the townhouse we were in, but we took it as far as we could, both in terms of space and design, so it was time to move. We had a sense not long after we moved in that it would only be right for us for about 5 to 10 years, and with the housing bubble bursting, that added urgency to the feeling, so it was never really possible to truly settle into it and get fully engaged in our own pursuits. Now we’ll be able to do that. This seems to be an interesting thing about the first home, at least if you buy with the intention of buying again. It becomes a transient space with the illusion of permanence, and the period of transience is too long.

Today’s rising generation, the millennials, is said to be putting off home ownership, in part because they saw their parents lose their homes in the recent financial crisis, in part because they entered an economy that wasn’t so favorable to them, and finally, because they just have a different sense of what they want for living arrangements–closer to bars, restaurants, urban environments, no cars, and so on. I read in one article the other day that the age for millennials is up to 34. That puts me in the first wave of millennials. This surprised me. I don’t really see myself that way. I’m also at the tail end of Generation X. I’m not sure how those two reconcile. Then again, I prefer it that way. It’s better to be none of the above, or some of the above, whatever. For me, at least where I live, I’m pretty young for what I’ve done so far–a couple kids, moving into my second home, pretty well established in my career with opportunities ahead of me. It makes sense to want to move into a single-family home in a bedroom community, even if it breaks with my assigned generational group. Good for the kids, plenty of space, peaceful, etc., and it settles an important thing for us so we can free up head space. Plus it’s what I grew up with.

There’s the idea that creative people living near more creative people has a multiplier effect, which accounts for the success of certain urban locations, and might also be an underlying aspect to the millennial urge towards the urban environment. This makes a lot of sense. You don’t have to do everything yourself, you just need to know people who can help. But there’s another side of things–and perhaps its the result of the nature of my personal pursuits–writing and painting–where I don’t need to be around a large community of creatives when I walk outside. For one, I’m married to one, and that’s the most important thing, and I am lucky enough to work in a pretty interesting place with a wide range of really intelligent interesting people. I suppose, though, to bring it back to the millennials, that became more apparent to me as I established myself more, and got to know a wider range of people who do different things around the company. When I first started, which might be the case with any recent grads, my circle was smaller, and it was not so easy to branch out. It was the ability and willingness to involve my whole self in what I was doing at work that made a difference, that helped me meet more interesting people. This has coincided nicely with our changes in housing situation and desire.

Beyond my personal housing decision, the housing question in general is interesting to me because housing is the point of intersection between so many fields. There are the obvious ones of architecture, engineering, economics, and finance. But there’s also art, cinema, literature, sociology, demography, geography, and on and on. Where we live has a profound impact on us individually as well. It affects where we go to school, who our friends are, what we do for fun, what we dream about, with whom we fall in love, when we fall in love, when and if we have kids. All of this goes into the building of community. So in a sense, when we talk about housing, we’re, in one way or another, talking about all of these things.

Where people vacation has a similar community defining impact as where people live. It gives people shared experiences, even if they don’t have those experiences at the same time. Vacation destinations, and the way they’re designed, encourage certain behaviors. The Outer Banks, for example, especially up in Duck and Corolla, has a lot of large houses that serve family reunions, or at least group vacations, with 6+ bedrooms, pools, etc. Families gather together in their own groups, which is very different from the boardwalk-centered experiences of other vacation spots. Various vacation destinations tend to draw people from similar places and backgrounds so that the community essentially travels from home to there. There’s a lot to look into for this subject, too much for a blog post, but it made for an interesting subplot to my own vacation.

I like our trip to Lakeville because it’s none of these things. It’s a simple escape to live a different life for a brief time, share some small farming experiences with my Aunt and Uncle, and do a little of my own stuff. I did a little sketching and some short story writing, which I haven’t done in years. It was good to get back to that. I’m sure I’ll post the story at some point, but it isn’t ready yet.

Once we complete our move, I’ll get back to painting and posting more regularly. I took a lot of reference photos for future paintings, and saw an inspirational Jamie Wyeth exhibit, so I will have a lot to work through soon. For now, here’s one sketch from my trip. Thanks for reading.

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