The Story Economy Blog

My Line in the Sand

construction on home additionMy neighborhood is one giant construction zone. All day long, dump trucks and concrete trucks cruise the neighborhood. There is an excavation vehicle on every corner and multiple lumber deliveries every day. If you sit quietly on any given morning, you can hear the hum of bulldozing, sawing, and hammering.

An influx of builders has arrived in our once-sleepy neighborhood and they are tearing down the post-war houses from the 1940s and 50s. These houses don’t represent how people today want to live. Now that construction season is upon us, two or three houses get leveled each week in this four square mile town of 9,000 people. Every time I go out to run, I notice another giant hole in the ground. They’re coming faster than I can keep track of.

This means the economy is moving. It means our neighborhood is desirable. People want to get in because of the schools, the convenience, and the small-town feel. But the catch is that they want to live in a new home.

I have no moral objection. No political objection. No objection as a resident. I get it. I know several lovely people who live in these new houses, which are gleaming and spacious.

Builders have offered to buy our house. My husband and I could take the cash and run. Find a newer home with a giant walk-in closet and master bathroom where no children are allowed.

But, no.


I am drawing a line in the sand. I am invoking stubbornness and holding out against the trends and prevailing wisdom.

In fact, instead of leveling our 1949 Cape Cod with the ridiculously small bathroom, the half story that is hot as hell in summer and freezing in winter, and the tidy floorplan long out of vogue, we are putting a modest addition on the back. We’ve got our own construction site now and we’re not looking back. My inner rebel is on the case.

The other day, the backhoe operator mistakenly went to the address down the street, where a new house is being built. “Wrong address,” he told our contractor.

You better believe it.

Draw Your Lines from Abundance

I’ve been thinking about this line in the sand business. The desire to say: this is the line I am drawing, the statement I am making, the idea I am invoking, the thing I am refusing to do.

It could turn into bigotry so fast if you let fear creep into the equation (the history of segregation and current fear-mongering in our country is a testament to that). I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about lines in the sand that come from a place of abundance:I can do better than that. I’m worth more than that. I won’t be defined by that. I see potential beyond that. I want to spend my energy differently than that.

I realize as I write this how I’ve been teasing people for some of their lines in the sand, like those friends who won’t embrace social media and colleagues who won’t embrace branding (you know who you are). Get with it, I tell them.

Someone could just as easily tell me to get with it!

In fact, I don’t think it is a line in the sand unless someone can say to you: Dude, what is your deal?

I used to teach my freshmen college composition students that it wasn’t an effective thesis statement unless someone could start an argument with you about it.

The same is true for a good line in the sand. Mind you, you don’t have to walk around starting arguments. In fact, please don’t, because that tends to be draining, low-level energy.

But definitely take that moment of pause to channel the weird, deep-rooted thing in you that says “no!” where the loudest voices are saying yes . . . or that says “yes!” where the loudest voices are saying no . . . or that says forget about yes and no because there is a better way to look at it altogether.

And also this: know what it’s about.

My line in the sand is about appreciating vintage charm. It’s about hearing the stories my parents told of growing up during World War II. It’s about growing up in a small house, where resources were stretched. It’s about taking what you have, reusing it to its fullest, and shaping it into what you want.

Life around me is in flux. That’s okay. I’ve got my line in the sand.

If you’re feeling stuck, pissed off, on the edge of something, or ready for change, I suggest thinking about your own line in the sand. You just might need one.

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