There’s a reconstruction going on at the end of my block. The house was originally a standard 2000 square foot split level, and it is being tripled in size. It has been turned into a behemoth.
The reconstruction began in May. My boys and I drove past it every day on the way to camp this Summer. We always had a comment regarding the progress, “look at the hole they’re digging, that door is huge, the windows are in now.”
For the boys, the voyeurism was your typical looking through the hole at the construction site.
However, for me, the gawking was different.
It was envy.
I know envy is one of the seven deadly sins. Every religion, psychologist, and self-help guru warns against it.
Yet, I struggled.
I looked at my own house. Suddenly, my 3-bedroom, 2.5 bath seemed inadequate. It wasn’t just the kitchen and the master bedroom which seemed too small for me. I wanted the behemoth.
This version of house envy is part of what I call suburbanitis.
It hit me especially hard when I first moved to the suburbs. I noticed the other houses on your block, in your neighborhood. Inevitably, some are bigger, more modern, and have better landscaping.
Suburbanitis enters stage two when I actually entered my neighbors’ houses. Once inside these confines, inevitably I found homes that have more attractive furnishings, more vibrant colors, and are more organized.
No matter how hard I or anyone tries, you can never win.
And that’s the whole point. When you get caught up in suburbanitis, the envy gnaws at you. The perpetual flow of catalogues that are delivered to your house feed suburbanitis. You feel compelled to buy, to keep up with the Jones.’ To rid of yourself of suburbanitis. But you can’t win. Even if you are the wealthiest person on your block or in your neighborhood. Someone is always getting something new, else, better.
I’ve struggled greatly with suburbanitis.
It hit me hard when my family and I arrived in the suburbs a little over six years ago. My wife, on the other hand, was more grounded. In fact when a neighbor wanted to show us her house so we could see what one could do with a split level, my wife’s retort was, “I can live in it.”
Ironic that my wife is the one who enjoys the catalogues and does the buying for our house.
Yet, I wanted everything – the big house that was lavishly decorated with all the trimmings. Not to mention the multiple brand new cars.
These things were simply not in my budget. I had a job, teaching, that while steady and rewarding at times, paid a mediocre salary. Was it the wrong job? Why couldn’t I support my family the way they deserved to be supported?
Simple – suburbanitis.
As time passed, my case of suburbanitis faded to the background. Did I get used to the big fancy houses and not think they were nicer than mine.
Instead, I remembered something. I have what I have because that is what I am supposed to have. I don’t have what I don’t have because I am not supposed to have it. It’s called faith. And it trumps suburbanitis.
However, my touch of suburbanitis still flares up on occasion. The house on the corner being the perfect example.
“Hey boys. Let’s talk to neighbors who live in that house?”
“What? Do they have kids?”
“I don’t know. Maybe, they can invite us to the house. I think we could all move in and still have plenty of room? What do you say?”
“Are you serious?”
A part of me is. Suburbanitis is a powerful disease.