My house is not so cute. Any realtor or HDTV host would say it “lacks curb appeal”.
It’s an ugly duckling among swans in historic Wyncote, with its soaring 19th-century Victorian mansions that look like they came right out of the pages of an architectural history textbook. My house, on the other hand, looks like it arrived in a time capsule from the 1950s—and it hasn’t aged well.
When I first saw it on Zillow, I almost passed it over completely. But my deeper wisdom prevailed: when I got past the exterior facade, I realized it was a great choice for my family. The home offered what we needed, in the location we wanted, and at a price we could afford.
I’m telling you all of this because I want to say it out loud: I live in a home that doesn’t meet my internal standards of beauty and success and I’m (still) sort of afraid about what people think about me because of it. I persuade friends or family to meet up at restaurants. Friends I haven’t seen in a while will say, “We haven’t seen your house!” I’ll smile and quickly redirect the conversation. I can feel the heat rising in my cheeks just admitting to this.
When I dug into all this, I realized that I had aspired for many years to a certain image of a cosmopolitan, creative professional. I wanted to wear expensive leather motorcycle boots with designer jeans and merino wool sweaters. I wanted to own a renovated, open-floor-plan condo with exposed brick walls and eco-friendly granite countertops in the hippest part of town.
If you grew up in America and you watch TV, chances are you have your own version of this. It’s so entrenched in our culture that there’s even a cliché for it: keeping up with the Joneses.
I started to question myself about eight years ago. I was living in a sought-after apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a job on Park Avenue. I had all the accouterments of success. But working in finance and law, I was exposed to the darker side of wealth and the painful chasm between rich and poor. I started wondering who I might be without all the “lifestyle” I kept layering on like too much makeup. Plus, irony of ironies, managing all these other people’s money wasn’t paying the bills—I was going into debt. That’s where the change was launched, and this homely house is where I’ve landed.
November’s issue, Rethinking Wealth and True Beauty, is all about this. It asks us to get curious about what it means to be “rich” and “beautiful”. It challenges us to be creative in determining success and courageous as we develop new criteria for what gives our lives meaning.
So here’s where the story gets good. I’m crafting an exquisite life in these humble digs! Living here has given me the freedom to move into my new job as publisher of this magazine. I still work hard, but for a purpose and a community that’s in alignment with my values. Plus I’m having more fun, much more of the time. Research now proves that not only do such shifts help us to feel better about our lives, they contribute to better health over the long term.
Having a more modest mortgage payment has eased some of the financial pressure, and with that, our stress level. We have more energy to pursue creative projects and to contribute to the political and social endeavors that matter to us. There’s more time for family, friends and self. Irrespective of the number of zeros on my bank statements, my life feels richer than ever.
As we enter the time of year when we give thanks for what we have, I hope this issue helps inspire you to reflect on what’s authentically valuable in your life. Maybe you’re richer and more beautiful than you ever thought possible.
As for me, now that I’ve “outed” myself, I can finally start planning that housewarming party!
With you in “awakening,”