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Owning vs Renting

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Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

I've been thinking about this a lot lately because we bought a house which is going to be ready for us to move into in the spring. It's exciting and also rather a headache as we're doing some work and that turned out to be a bit of a project.


Anyway.


I had a bunch of random thoughts which I haven't been able to coalesce into a coherent post, so today I picked this one: to own something means both to take possession of it, but it also means to take responsibility for it.


I've long had an issue with owning in the first sense. I feel strongly about language that implies that we own other people (I don't have kids, I'm raising them). I feel that buying and owning things is a way we numb the thought that we own nothing in this world. We are here for a brief period of time, barely renting a place on this planet, and that's scary. The thought that we're merely passing through, that we're guests in our lives, makes us want to hold on to anything. We're looking for anchors: a house, a family, a community.


For a long while, I felt that I'm above that. I know it sounds condescending, and it probably was. I felt that I was better than that. I could look death in the eye and hold the thought that one day I'll be gone and no one will remember me. I could do that and not even flinch. And I do, to some extent, accept it (and I might get into that in another post).


What I didn't take into account is the second meaning of owning: to take responsibility for something. I own the way the kids I've raised behave because I taught them to respect other people. I own my family's carbon footprint on the planet because I make most of the decisions about the running of the house. I own the feeling of belonging that people in my writing community feel because I work hard to make sure everyone feels welcome and seen. I own the mistakes I've made in all of these: the kids' complete lack of tidying up after themselves, each bottle we don't recycle, every group member who feels alone or left out.


There's a fine line between taking responsibility and taking possession. But there is a difference. It's the difference between saying that tidying up isn't a priority for me and saying that my kids' mistakes reflect on me as a person. It's the difference between making choices that reduce our carbon footprint and worrying about every light that's been left on. It's the difference between being available to my writing group's members and hovering over them. I hope I've managed to do mostly the formers rather than the latters.


As always, I have no answers or even a complete post. But that's my life for you: imperfect, incomplete, and all mine.

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