Under Construction

If you ever have the opportunity to build your own home I highly encourage it. I am currently in the process of building our third, and final, home (fourth actually if you include that my parents built ours when I was kid). It is an amazing process to start from nothing but a plot of ground and in a few months (we’ll use that loosely) time you could be moving into a fully erected home that is completely designed and wholly loved by you. In case you have never had the opportunity, let me describe it for you from my uniquely experienced perspective.

The blank slate that would become our home.

When you decide to build a house there is this, almost honeymoon phase where you are just dreaming of what it could be. You often don’t start with real specifics but more so what you want to do or feel when you’re in it. For example, I want to be able to see my kids playing when I do the dishes. I want to watch the snow fall while I read a book. I want my bedroom window to face the north so I don’t see the traffic first thing when I wake up in the morning. I want light switches I can reach from my bed so I don’t have to get back out to turn them off at night. I want everything I need on the main floor so I can stay in this home as long as possible. I would even suggest you take it to the individual room. When I’m in the bathroom I want to feel relaxed and like I’m entering a mini spa at home. Or, I want tons of light to do meticulous make-up. Or, I need enough room to get all the kids’ teeth brushed and have a big enough sink to set a tiny butt up there when I need to wash out a skinned knee. While none of these actually dictate the budget, they do point you in the direction of your priorities. Once you understand what the key areas are you can start designing the house around them. There are a million designs online you can use for inspiration, draw out your ideas yourself, or work with a professional to meld the dream with reality.

Then you come fully into reality. You work with a builder and maybe even directly with a couple of subcontractors who let you know what will and won’t work from the perspectives of time, money, and functionality (you can’t have both all the cabinets and all the windows, you have to pick). Finally the home starts to take shape, on paper of course. In the midst of figuring out financing and signing contracts you start to add in the details, big and small. Do we want oak cabinets or hickory? Or maybe painted with glass doors? What style of faucets should we have in the bathrooms? And the kitchen? And the mud room? Do we get window coverings? Blinds or curtains? What color should this wall be? Should that room be a different color or the same? Should this room have carpeting or wood? Laminate or tile? Door hardware? Cabinet hardware? This is where I think so many people get into trouble building. There are so many decisions and you have to make all of them off of blueprints, tiny samples, and memory of what you already chose. They have a huge impact on the comfort, style, and cost of the home. This is where you need to use all of your organization and research tactics, rely on your experts, and use your original dream for how this home would feel, and your budget, as your guides. If you have no idea what sort of tile to put in your bathroom, remember what you wanted to feel while there, consult your flooring budget, take a look at Pinterest or HGTV for some inspiration, and work with those who know it best to make a final decision.

At the top of the stairs with the view of where the Christmas tree will be.

While the house is physically taking shape you can go often to experience the progress and see what you were dreaming about come to life. I literally stand in my bedroom with stud walls up only thinking, this is where I’ll wake up every morning. I stand in the kitchen where the stove will be imagining my kids running through the dining room and into the living room while I’m making dinner. I stand where the couch will sit imagining being all curled up with my husband and a hot cup of tea watching the lights on the Christmas tree next year. As much as I’m able, I experience the feelings I want the home to give me (and encourage all my dudes to do the same) all through the process. I want this place to feel like ours from the moment we carry the first box in. Each house that we’ve built has felt like home and like my heart is connected to each and every stud and electrical box and piece of drywall in the place. There have been a variety of budgets and differences in the intricacies of the homes but I can tell you that I was as invested in and loved the least expensive and simplest of them every bit as much as the more expensive and and intricate.

This is likely where some of you who have built are rolling your eyes at me. Yes there are mistakes, stray lights that you never asked for, gaps in the tile where the amount of grout looks weird, and wall colors that come out nothing like you planned. There are fights too (with all of the choices how could there not be) there are disagreements about all of the details where you fight nearly to the death about the shade of counter top and then the really bad ones where you never talked about it at all, assuming you were on the same page, and the foundation is poured with the house facing a different direction than you intended. You have to see past all of that. You have to see the end result and what you’re working toward. Those specifics are important but they’re really just part of building that feeling. Regardless of all of the rough spots, it is one of the most rewarding experiences because I’m using the detail to support the ideals.

Same view as the first picture. We’re getting there.

This is the same way I feel about building anything in life, but for this example, my career.

Start with the dream

I don’t limit myself to the next step or where I see myself next year. I start with the dream of where I want to be, supported by how I want to feel when I’m there. What is the lifestyle I want to lead? Do I want more time with my family? A bigger paycheck? What is the impact I want to have? Can I picture myself sitting in that office? Do I want to be running the floor with those people? Am I happy and fulfilled? Am I supporting the happiness and fulfillment of others around me? Then as the end goal starts to take shape I’m able to ask the more concrete questions.

Use your resources

What does this ideal picture look like functionally and logistically? When your dream is big and abstract (whether its a home or a career or anything else) it can be difficult to bring it back down into a manageable arena. This is where I’ll say again, you need to use all of your organization and research tactics, rely on your experts, and use your original dream for how you would feel, and your budget, as your guides. Search the web, not for openings, but for positions that sound like what you’re looking for. This can be totally out of your comfort zone because remember, its the end goal, not your next move. The budget sounds silly in this example but still rings true. I don’t know how often I’ve heard people say I want limited hours and a job I can leave at work so it doesn’t interfere with the family but they are living on an executive budget. (Low stress, limited hours jobs that pay six figures are hard to come by my friend.) The research will not only help you determine what but how to get there as well. If you’ve done the research and aren’t sure of the next step, consult an expert. Talk to a mentor, hire a coach, or come at it from a different angle like asking someone who seems to be living the life you’re after what they do and how they got there (aka finding a mentor).

Experience it while its under construction

Do everything you can to experience the end goal, the feelings you wanted to feel, while you’re working toward it. You wanted to travel more? Let yourself feel that excitement and anticipation while you’re taking a trip now, even if it’s just camping 30 minutes away. You wanted to have a greater impact on more people, add that value while you’re working with your small sphere now. Do everything you can do to lean into and enjoy all of the reasons you started this journey in the first place.

Keep your eye on the prize

Things will come up that will derail you. It could be not moving through your journey as fast as you’d like. It could be needing to take a sidestep or a step back to focus on family or to prepare yourself for the next role. It could be even bigger, those decisions that were never considered and outside of your control. Keep that end goal in mind and you’ll find that you’re truly living the dream while you work toward it regardless of where you are.

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