Disclaimer: this is not a home decor article. And frankly that’s good news for you, because I still have so much to learn in that department.
This is about all the things that buying my first house on my own taught me about myself and what I’m capable of — and what I still need to work through. I’m hoping the things I’ve learned along the way will apply to you regardless of where you are in life and what you’re working to achieve.
Like many city dwellers in 2020, I felt pretty trapped in my one bedroom apartment during lockdown with nothing but time on my hands to think about all the things I wish I could be doing. All the travel I was bitter about not doing. Then, finally, one day I channeled that into what I was still able to do regardless of the many, many things that were out of my control. Two brand new dreams, three financial coaches, and 14 months later, I closed on my first house. And when I say first house, I really mean it. I grew up in NYC and never even lived in a house before, so this was all extremely new to me.
Let’s get to the good stuff already:
1. People want to support you — don’t be afraid to let them.
Building a support system was one of the most important things I did when I started this journey. In case you can’t already tell, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I consider myself to be an empathetic person who loves to help others, but when it comes to asking for help, it’s not so easy.
Throughout this process, I learned how important reciprocity was. When I asked the friends and family I hold close to me for help, they were all quick to go above and beyond, no matter where I was in the process. From going to see houses with me to picking bathroom tiles, I learned a lot about who I could go to for help and who was less inclined to support me. Ultimately, I’m grateful that this homeownership journey helped me understand who my reciprocal relationships are and who to focus more time and energy on.
2. Just because I don’t know what I’m doing doesn’t mean I can’t figure it out.
My therapist, Queen B, helped me reframe the new puzzles I was bumping into day in and day out. Instead of saying “I have to figure this out,” I started to tell myself, “I get to figure this out.” Soon, I realized how lucky I was that I worked hard enough to be in a position where I got to challenge myself in new ways, and the end results were all things I wanted to achieve — not for a client, a boss, or some other stakeholder. It was all for myself.
And shoutout to YouTube, Reddit, NextDoor, and Facebook Groups — the other support systems I sought out. It’s a comforting feeling to know that whatever I couldn’t figure out on my own, someone, somewhere already went through the same thing or at least had wise words to share.
3. Not all progress is obvious in the moment.
I’ll start by saying I have a hard time recognizing progress when it’s intangible. It was easy for me to celebrate my (5th) offer being accepted and closing day going smoothly, but not everything about seeing progress as a homeowner is as tangible as I thought it would be. Sure, slowly ordering furniture and picking paint colors was (and still is) really exciting, but reflecting on those days now, I see so much more.
Now I think about the proud look my mom (an immigrant who has worked so incredibly hard to help me get to where I am today) had when she first came to my very empty house is priceless. Hosting my first Thanksgiving with my family and starting a new tradition is something I never thought I’d do. It may be cliche, but gratitude journaling has helped me see all the things I’ve accomplished in a year in a way that a before-and-after photo can’t ever capture. And the tangible progress helps too. Even making this Instagram Reel was tougher than I thought it would be because there was too much to choose from.
4. Patience. That’s it, that’s the learning.
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with being patient. The thought of wasting time sends me into spiral-mode. Once I set a goal, there’s no stopping me. When I think I’m being patient, I’m usually kidding myself. Then came homeownership. Splitting my time between two places meant everything had to move slower because of time and money. For the first time that I can remember, having those limitations made being patient easier for me. No couch? No problem. Good friends will have a blast sitting on my floor and on my ladder with a bottle (or two) of wine.
The important part is that I’m on the right path no matter how long it takes for me to get to the finish line. And if Pinterest taught me anything, the finish line keeps moving because my vision for this house keeps growing and growing in the most exciting way.
5. Getting started is half the battle.
I know how cliche this sounds, but honestly, wow, this one really resonates with me — especially in hindsight. I look back at who I was and what I was seemingly prepared for this time last year, and a house may not have been the “correct” move. But if I waited for the perfect moment, I’d still be feeling isolated in my one bedroom apartment, potentially letting that feeling impact other areas of my life. That being said, smart decisions are still a top priority, but don’t wait for perfection to find your joy or chase your dreams — no matter how new they may be.
All to say, homeownership has changed me in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined. I’m excited to see how year two goes, what challenges I will overcome, and what dreams I have yet to even imagine. That being said, NYC will always have my heart and my rent check (if I’m lucky), and my house will always be the escape I need in a pinch.
Have any of your dreams helped you navigate new and exciting challenges?