my life in the mean time
July 8, 2014 11:04 AM   Subscribe

My whole adult life I've always felt like my life was on hold. Why can't I settle down even though I want to? Why do I feel this way and how to change or cope?

I have overstayed my job by 5 years. I never intended to stay in this suburb this long, I meant to stay 5 years for the job and then go elsewhere to improve my career but it has been 10 years and I'm so sick of it. I wanted to change companies and I was applying everywhere and then the recession hit and so I bunkered down and stayed. I bought my house 7 years ago thinking "I'll only stay here a year or two" and each time I have to renew my mortgage I only want a 1 year term. Even to this day I can't buy a gallon of olive oil without thinking "but what if I have to move before I finish this? Better just buy 25oz." I won't buy a BBQ or deck furniture in case I leave. My house is kinda empty but I do have basic furniture & pets. I was about to leave 2 years ago and then I met my boyfriend. He wants to leave as well and we are slowly making those plans, but the plans are too slow and I feel like I'm just living my life in the mean time. I want some definite plan to get out of here. He says we are planning, he says things build (and he has to tie up loose ends at work for another few months, although initially our date was spring and that deadline keeps getting pushed back since his work stuff got delayed), he says be calm otherwise you'll just bring those anxious stressful feelings to the next place too. I want a concrete plan that will not leave me feeling so up in the air. I have been applying to lots of jobs and some nibbles but no bites.

Growing up life was chaotic, alcoholic emotional parents and we moved every 1-2 years. I definitely have a lot of anxiety and trouble sitting still. I feel like this suburb is purgatory and my own life is passing me by. Everyone's life is moving forward while mine is standing still. It's like I'm living it while it is on hold. But I also wonder if I will also feel stuck when I get to the next place. What is going on? Do you feel this way? Did moving help? Where does it come from and how to deal? Thanks metafilter.
posted by serenity soonish to Work & Money (9 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I felt like this. When I bought a home that was what I wanted and where I could see living for a while, I was able to stop living in limbo. I could paint the walls the colours I liked, buy a sofa that worked for my space, bolt bookcases to the wall, put up shelves, etc. I didn't have to make-do with the crappy microwave and I could put in an OTR one.

We had to move a couple of times and not all these choices worked out. But I gave myself permission to let go. I am about to sell a beautiful piece of furniture I bought for $1200. Because it is big and clunky, I have it on Craiglist for around $250. I may well end up giving it away. But $1200 over 10 years is really $10 a month. And this piece of furniture gave me more than $10 a month in value for that time. In fact, I'm a little reluctant to let it go.

I've learned to buy and sell on Craiglist. So I can have things I want and then let them go again. I donate stuff, too, and I see that as helping others.

Those mindsets helped.

But giving myself permission to love my neighbourhood, learn its history, get to know neighbours, entertain friends, buy the big olive oil jug and more helped.

I'd suggest that maybe you talk to a therapist about how you're feeling, your history and how, for some reason, your boyfriend's timeline and career seems to be taking precedent. Maybe you need to move ahead of him. Maybe he needs to compromise on tying up loose ends. There's no harm in starting to apply to jobs in the city you want to move to. And consider whether you would actually want to stay in this city if you could have the bbq, deck furniture and other things you need. Maybe you just need permission to stay or to let yourself live like you need for a year or two. Give yourself permission to go spend $300 on Craiglist bbq and deck furniture and sell it later.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:16 AM on July 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

Growing up life was chaotic, alcoholic emotional parents and we moved every 1-2 years.

Regardless of whether you move, have you worked through the legacy of instability from your childhood? My partner was also moved around excessively as a child (at least once a year, often more) by mentally unstable, dramatic parents who "solved" problems by moving. It made his young life extremely chaotic and had a lot of negative effects. He repeated the same patterns in his early adult life and moved around a lot. The compulsion to move around and believe that happiness and a better life could be found in a new place took a lot of time to undo.

There's nothing wrong with moving to a new place and exploring new options, but also be aware that some of the reason why you don't want to put down roots and feel anxious about staying still could stem from an unconscious repeating of your childhood patterns.
posted by quince at 11:25 AM on July 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

Try living in the moment for some things. I know you have future plans, but appreciating where you are and what your life is right now isn't going to derail you from that. Find a bit of happiness in each day, even if it's just being mindful of a nice breeze or a fun lunch with friends may help to relieve some of the feeling that life isn't moving forward as quickly as you'd like.
posted by xingcat at 12:28 PM on July 8, 2014

Two sickeningly mawkish cliches apply:
-There's no geographical solution to and emotional problem.
-Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.

Were you particularly happy about moving around like you did as a child? If not, then I suspect if you move now you will probably feel the same way in the next place.

Although events have conspired to make you stay put, obviously some good things have happened. Boyfriend? Other friends? Good memories? Your don't like your job but so do a lot of us. You're living a life. Don't lose track of what you already have. The other people seem to be moving on, and may appear shiny and happy, but they are at war with their issues just like you are.

If you want to get over this I think your boyfriend is right. Baby steps will get you there. Step 1: buy something permanent. Make it something you'll enjoy while you have it. If you have to leave it behind, that's OK. Nothing is permanent and you will always leave something behind.
posted by dzot at 12:29 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think this is a common problem for people who move all the time. My parents moved around (for totally normal reasons) a lot when I was younger and I am still always looking for the "next adventure". I've done several things to combat this:

1. Rather than thinking of "not being settled", I think of myself as "adventure seeking." It's a positive. I *want* to go out and do stuff. If I can't do large adventures now (move to Europe, sail around the world, etc) then I do small adventures (backpacking, travel). It definitely helps with my need to move around and not be in the same house for too long--that feeling that I should be somewhere else RIGHT NOW.

Do stuff you want to do anyway, even if the conditions aren't optimal.

2. I buy almost everything used off Craigslist. I think of it as putting a deposit down to borrow something from Craig. And then I sell it if it doesn't fit my new place. This way, there's very little actual cost to the furniture I buy, but my home still looks lived in. For bulk items, I just buy them in bulk. I figured, in worst case, I can give them away to some needy person and it won't be wasted.

3. For me, moving does help, but it's expensive. I average about 10 months at each apartment/house over the last 5 years, and I'd hire movers. I stayed in the same city. The newness of the place would wear off after 3-4 months, though, and I'd start planning to the enxt place/neighborhood I want to move to. I know that I'm not the only one who does this and I have friends/coworkers who move more frequently than I do. You can make it cheaper by owning fewer things. If it's your "natural rhythm" then it's your natural rhythm and just go with it...?
posted by ethidda at 12:43 PM on July 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Giving this a go because I definitely had the fire underneath me to move for a while/or change jobs/or change everything (and I did do this). At the end of the day, though, I don't think it matters why I do or did these things, which is embedded in your question, but what can motivate you to make the change that you want.

I don't think your boyfriend of the moment is related to your question because you mention wanting to move, but yet living in the same place for the last 10 years. So instead, if you think that moving could bring you happiness, the question might be: How do you change or what steps can you take to change?

I think by nature, humans are lazy (myself included). If we have a den and someone feeds us (home and job), even if you are unhappy, there is very little motivation to move or change or anything. So a person can declare - I would like to live over there, but 10 yrs, 20 yrs, etc., might pass.

So instead, try to change the environment and incentives: Put your house up for sale; get a google voice number for the new geographic location; send out resumes; quit your job; rent a place in new geographic location. In other words, set up a plank, walk to the end of the plank, and either set fire to the boat or jump. You will then have a reason to move/find new employment etc. Humans are adaptable, you will survive, and perhaps thrive. Do some things to mitigate the risk, but you get the idea.

I also wonder if part of your challenge is "analysis paralysis", because along with the 10 years of living there, you are still asking: What happens in the next place. But you haven't even tried changing locations yet. Give it a go and if you don't like it, you know the steps to take to move again, or you can better define what you want in the next place.

I don't know if this idea will help, because again, it is hard to know why you crave change, but I have a friend who is similar (as am I). His perspective on this is for whatever reason, some people are wired or crave novelty/change. Acknowledge it , accept it, and own it - so for him, he changes jobs every few years to get this novelty. Or you can find a job/location/etc. that gives you the novelty/change/etc. and you can get it in another medium.

Part of your question was - Do you feel this way and did moving help? It absolutely did for me, as did defining my own job. I think that I know what some of the underlying motivations were and how to channel it now, but I'm not going to post all of that here (but feel free to memail if you want to discuss it or bounce ideas around).
posted by Wolfster at 12:47 PM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Even to this day I can't buy a gallon of olive oil without thinking "but what if I have to move before I finish this? Better just buy 25oz." I won't buy a BBQ or deck furniture in case I leave.

I used to fall heavily into the trap of this, and would never paint a place, or buy new things, or anything, because what-if-I-move. Now, I was a renter and yeah, I moved around decently often, so it wasn't like some farfetched possibility. But fundamentally it wasn't about that, it was about refusing to get attached, because when you get attached you get hurt. And that was a lesson I learned from the instability of my childhood. And I carried this lesson forward in weird and sometimes counterintuitive ways--hanging on way too long to bad relationships, but refusing to commit to a set of towels or a wall hanging or what have you.

One way to break out of this pattern is literally Just Do It. Just start putting down roots. Paint your walls. Buy a grill. Allow yourself to love your house and call it home, and eventually you will start to feel those things.

The stupid thing about life is that as soon as you have done this, you will suddenly find yourself totally willing and able to move forward, finally. And then your heart will break a little when you leave your home, that you love. But you'll survive it! And you will love the next home, too.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:02 PM on July 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

Nthing "just do it". One thing I have learned to accept in life is that there is no tomorrow, figuratively speaking. That situation you're in? That's your life. Whether you like it or expect something else or desperately want to break out, that's what your existence is at the moment. You have to shit or get off the pot.

Like Wolfster says, you have to either start moving right now (as in this minute yes right now instead of reading this) or start loving what you have. Anything else is just sacrificing your happiness for a figment of your imagination.

P.S. - There is never going to be a perfect time to do the things you have planned. People sabotage themselves all the time by coming up with that one more thing they have to do before pursuing their goals.
posted by Willie0248 at 7:08 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I do this! The biggest revelation to me was realizing that quality things hold value, and you can always sell them if needed on ebay and craigslist (especially if you buy them secondhand). Go ahead and get the grill and furniture; you can always sell them next spring.

Also, don't forget that experiences themselves are worth something too. For years I avoided planting a garden because I'm a renter, even though I've always wanted one. I'm so glad I went ahead with it this year, even though I may not be able able to reap the full benefits of a perennial garden if I move.
posted by susanvance at 6:26 AM on July 9, 2014

« Older Pithy and incisive   |   Labeling data points in an Excel chart Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.