© 2020 Ryan Kriger
Once upon a time there was a man with very inconsiderate friends.
You see, the man loved to throw parties at his house on the hill, and whenever he did, his friends would come over and cause all sorts of damage.
The man in the house on the hill explained again and again to his friends that they had to stop damaging his house. He implored them to be careful. And while the friends seemed to understand, and seemed to be trying, they would inevitably come over and accidentally crush his coffee table or put holes in his walls or gashes in his sofa and the man would spend the next few days frustrated and resentful as he went about repainting and patching and repairing the damage.
The man believed that if his friends really cared, they would stop doing damage to his house. After all, he had explained to them how not to harm his house, and he had lived in the house all his life and he never did any damage to the house. And he was very careful not to damage anyone else’s house either.
The man in the house on the hill looked at the problem from every angle. He could stop throwing parties, but being social was part of who he was. He could get rid of his friends, but he liked his friends and he’d miss them. He could try not to let the damage to the house bother him so much, but the damage was real and how can you live in a house with holes in the wall and a crushed coffee table? So he focused on the one thing he could control: he explained to his friends, again and again, what was expected of them.
Some friends just stopped coming to his parties because they didn’t want to follow his instructions. The man told himself that they weren’t very nice people anyway.
One day the man in the house on the hill was lamenting his fate to his neighbor, who happened to be an architect. The man said, “My friends keep damaging my house no matter how much I implore them not to, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
The architect listened for a long time, and then said, “Well, maybe the problem is that your house is made of paper.”
The man blinked and said, “What do you mean?”
And the neighbor said, “Your house. It’s made of paper. Everything in it is paper. I mean you’ve painted it and veneered it so it’s not obvious that it’s made of paper, but it’s made of paper. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve done a great job with what you were working with. It’s a great looking house, and everyone loves your parties, but of course your friends keep doing damage, it’s really hard not to damage a paper house.”
The man had no idea. He was born in that house. He’d inherited it from his parents. It was all he’d ever known. He was also proud of all the work he’d put into the house, and the parties he threw there.
And the man said, “Wow. Now that I know my house is made of paper, I know what to do. I’ll explain to my friends how delicate the house is, and I’ll be more understanding of the damage.”
And the architect said, “Or you could, you know, just move.”
And the man said, “I can’t do that. I’ve lived there all my life. I’m ‘the man in the house on the hill.’ That’s who I am.”
And the architect said, “No, that’s how you identify yourself, but that’s not who you are. When you were little you had no control over where you lived, but you’re an adult now and you worked hard and you have the resources to just find a new house.”
The architect continued. “You lament that you have no control, but there is actually only one thing you do have control over. And that’s the fact that you live in a paper house. Now that you realize that, you can stay, but if you do so it’s not because you have to. It’s because you choose to.”
And so the man decided to move. It took a while because when you’ve lived somewhere your whole life there is a lot to sift through, to toss out, to pack and unpack, but eventually he found himself in a much sturdier house.
And the man kept throwing parties just like before, and his friends behaved like they always had, but they no longer damaged his house.
And the man was happy.
And so were his friends.