Sunday, March 15, 2009

Living Alone is a Luxury

It's not a right.

As plenty of you have probably already realized, the US has been obsessed with the idea of one small nuclear family per McMansion regardless of the consequences. And, well, now we all get to pay.

What is an anomoly in the rest of the world is standard practice here, in part because we're such a mobile society. For me it was Seattle, Nicaragua and Wyoming in the course of four years for work.

In Nicaragua, most everyone assumed I had lived with my parents up until I had moved there. They were shocked to learn that not only had I not lived in their house, or their city, I had even lived in an apartment all by myself for the three previous years.

They couldn't imagine it. Wasn't I scared? Or lonely?

They didn't understand because they had learned the joys (and how to handle the challenges) of living in community, of living with multiple generations in the same home and neighbors whose conversations (and livestock) you could hear while lying in bed (although they were muffled and in Spanish so I never really understood them (the conversations, not the livestock)).

I could have bought a house in Seattle in 2004, 2005, 2006. It would be a house whose value would now be less than the mortgage. I worked for a general contractor who now has had to lay off some employees, maybe I'd be out of a job.

And I could ask you to bail me out, pay my way because I was part of a cultural bust that could ruin you if left undone.

But maybe I got lucky, luckier than getting pulled out of a mess. I learned how to live in community. I lived with roomates all through college to minimize debt. I lived with NPH and in a family home in Nicaragua.

And now I am being welcomed into the home of Dave and Karen in Wyoming who speak with enthusiam for Habitat for Humanity, hiking, their two grown sons and their families.

I will be paying them $300 per month for a bedroom, bathroom, utilities, food and general use of their home (a generous offer anywhere, but especially in Sheridan where just a room in someone's house can cost $500 or more per month). I'm also sure care, hugs and listening to frustrations will also be included free of charge.

And I suppose that is the real luxury so many people miss out on. While looking for privacy, space and a view they miss the joy of shared laughter, the comfort of shared time and the purpose of shared values.

It looks like more people are learning this lesson out of necessity (link to Seattle Times article on shared housing). So maybe there is a silver lining to these hard times.


Sean said...

Hi Nicole, great entry. I agree with your observations of Nicaragua and of course the social dynamics here in Dominica are very similar with adult children and their children living alongside their parents. Even if everyone is not under the same roof, they are often a stone's throw away. It sounds like you had a wonderful experience in the tropics and wish you the best on your next adventure in north central Wyoming. Interestingly enough, Steve (from Wesley) is going to be a professor at UWYO this fall. Take care and peace,


Robin Schwartz said...

Nicole, I loved this entry!! Thanks for you two thumbs up on Idaho. I'm glad to here you are settling in to the next chapter in your life. Best wishes friend, Robin