Using a gratitude problem to embrace the imperfections in life.
Like most people I stay busy complaining and comparing my life to others. A gratitude problem, essentially. I realized, through multiple cycles of self awareness, this is the most common and detrimental form of self sabotage and misery. We all know that comparison is the thief of joy but sometimes it is too easy to pass up. Many of the things that are annoying to me are fairly common and don't require extra helpings of sympathy. Commuting sucks. Paying bills sucks. Repairing and maintaining expensive things like a house sucks. But the only reason I have these problems is my full time job and salary which helped me buy a house. So these are privileged people problems.
Another example of direct comparison is when I attended a baby shower recently for one of my oldest friends in a very nice house in a highly desirable neighborhood. Just to avoid sweeping generalities nice in this definition means built recently, trending on the expensive side with no obvious repairs needed and in a city people want to be in aka middle class to rich white people with the property taxes to match. This kind of house whispered to me from the driveway, "You can't afford me." I knew it. But I looked it up anyway because I'm morbidly curious by default. It was definitely out of my price range and would be for some time unless I find some buried treasure in my backyard.
I expected the owners to be middle aged and well off. Probably a double income, high earning power couple. Instead the owners are a couple I know who are only a few years older than me. I didn't expect this which made the comparison game even more detrimental. Imagining the gulf between my finances and theirs was an act of futility even though I knew it would be vast. As I admired the interior and exterior, is it possible to not be slightly jealous of someone with pool?, it was impossible to completely silence the voice in my head telling me I was a complete failure because my house wasn't as nice, new or as expensive as this one. The couple isn't boastful and I received no validation from these thoughts such as, “Well at least they are terrible people drowning in debt.”
I could see no flaws in the house. Any imperfections found were so slight they barely registered as undesirable. Later I learned the woman in this secret power couple, whose house I was critiquing and who I knew from being in a bridesmaid brigade with her years earlier, was a realtor which explained things perfectly. They had a beautiful house utterly lacking in personality so it could easily appeal to many people and be sold quickly. Improvements were made and more seemed on the horizon. I couldn't imagine what they might be. But I realized if she could find flaws in this practically perfect house you can find flaws anywhere in anything. This could also be a fun quirk of being a realtor; never being fully satisfied with a house.
Remember when you wanted what you currently have.
This sentiment hits me like a sledgehammer to the head every time I read it. Sentiments like these are a dime a dozen on Instagram but this one made an impression in my brain. Besides making me think it stopped my scroll which is quite a feat. Comparing my current situation to my past self from a couple years or a decade ago they would think I was killing it right now. I used to be obsessed with my future plans and how they would pan out. I didn't lock myself into a rigid time limit, even though yesterday is better than today, but I wanted a husband and house eventually. I got both within a month of each other. They are both more complex and taxing then I could have imagined when distantly dreaming of them. The idealized life rarely imagines all the possible setbacks associated with what we want.
Like having a dream house other people will naturally like and covet on some level isn't as easy or fun as it seems. Having a beautiful, envious house is something I've realized is a nice to have but not a must have for me. The trade offs would be too much. I would need to be in the kind of stressful, high earning job or career that would consume me and make me feel terrible during and after work to afford it. This house would soon transform into a personal prison since the only way to keep up with the high payments would be to never quit the stressful job. And so the cycle continues.
For my mental health and savings goals I'm sticking with my house. It is a little out of the way, unique and far from perfect. The mortgage payments won't cannibalize my finances if I get laid off. It is more important for me to have savings then to spend my full paycheck plus empty out my savings on a down payment for the dream house in the dream neighborhood. When I stand in my backyard surrounded by giant trees in full bloom for spring I feel like I've gotten the better deal. I have privacy and space protected by giant trees to block out the few neighbors we have. And I am grateful to have my version of a perfect house.