Deep Dive: Why?
Why Build My Own Home?
There are many reasons.
I've always wanted to. I've dreamt of this since I was a pre-teen; I used to build models of homes for myself (and I still do). Plus, I've been a renaissance man much of my life, and believed that building my own home was the ultimate means to exercise a diverse set of skills.
Satisfaction. Doing something yourself is more satisfying than just about anything else. Possibly even sex.
A way to realize a goal. For much of my adult life, that goal has been to live someplace where I would not see—or be seen by—anyone else. I'm a private person (obviously); antisocial in some eyes, a classic "mountain man" in others. I enjoy being alone, and occasionally fantasize about being not necessarily the last person on Earth, but perhaps one of the last few thousand. My home allows me to imagine this scenario.
I have a singular vision. My idea of a "perfect" home doesn't align with that of many others, and the chances of finding an existing home that met my requirements was very small, because—
I have particular preferences. Yes, there are plenty of asocial individuals who prefer to live in a wilderness setting, isolated from humanity for the most part. But I also prefer a small home, semi-subterranean if possible, and built in my own peculiar style. Modifying an existing structure to my liking would likely be more work than building anew.
Knowing what's what and why. I'd have an intimate familiarity with every board, pipe and wire in the structure, so that maintenance and modification wouldn't be something of an archeological dig. I've lived in many homes spanning a broad range of age and style, and I've done a considerable amount of refurbishment. It's always been a frustrating process to understand things; too often I've been left wondering, "Why did they do that?" Now I'd know.
It would be exactly the way I wanted it. For better or worse. Just the process of getting the architectural drawing done to reach something acceptable was a struggle, and it was a very good thing indeed that I wasn't required to adhere to the blueprints when it came time to build, because it might have otherwise taken years (at the rate we were going) to get exactly what I wanted from my architect. We were down to pushing walls and doors around a few inches at a time, and it still wasn't working. It's not as though I was asking for the impossible; if it were impossible, I wouldn't have been able to build it myself. Yet I have.
Emotional distraction. The last few years of my life have been especially bad and emotionally damaging, and building a house was a way to help clear my mind so I could heal. Unfortunately, that didn't work out as planned, because I wound up stuck in a whole new heap o' crap that's bad enough to potentially doom the project. Did not see that one coming...
Why Build It Here?
When I was four, my parents bought a summer home on a lake in New Hampshire (below), and I grew to love that state. Consequently I've often imagined myself living in the middle of 120 acres of New Hampshire mountainside—which, as it happens, was feasible. Indeed, if I hadn't been screwed over by my father, I might be living there right now (but that's a long, ugly story for another time and venue).
Slides I took of our summer home, circa 1975.
However, nearly all of my friends live in central New Jersey, and over time I've become increasingly inclined to remain closer them. Also, getting older imposes certain practical limitations, particularly with respect to health—living in a remote wilderness would restrict my access to healthcare, and put me at greater risk if I should suffer serious injury.
But aside from New Hampshire, there's no other place I'd rather live. Yes, really. I've endured endless, predictable jokes about New Jersey, but in truth they're all based on inaccurate perceptions derived mostly from The Sopranos and/or Jersey Shore. Visitors to my home often exclaim they can't believe they're in central New Jersey. Surprise! My property is hardly unique; people simply have the wrong idea about the state. Yes, there are a great many areas that are highly undesirable places to live. But there are just as many that are drop-dead gorgeous.
That I was able to find such a place was simply a matter of circumstance. There are countless properties similar in nature; it was all down to timing (when which lots appear on the market) and affordability. I'd scoured the state for months when I found it, and I bought it within minutes of seeing it for the first time because 1) I immediately knew it provided just the right conditions to realize my goals; 2) it was affordable; and 3) there was no knowing how long it would remain available.
Is it 100% perfect? Hardly. But I could never have afforded what I'd consider perfect. That would have been some multi-million-dollar parcel located along the Delaware River somewhere between Stockton and Frenchtown, where spectacular canyons have been carved out of solid rock; I'd have built my home within a verdant canyon wall overlooking a cascade of water (yes, my own Fallingwater). Fortunately, what I've found is good enough that it's easy for me to pretend I'm in that perfect place.
And Why Build This Website?
Although I don't have a lot of friends, I have enough that this website helps everyone stay up-to-date with my progress. Also, writing helps me keep my head on straight; documenting what I do is a helpful exercise. And finally, I get a strange kick out of thinking that anonymous visitors might enjoy watching me make a complete fool of myself in front of the world. There are lessons to be learnt here. Who knows? I might one day turn it into a book.
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