How do I settle down when I have nothing to settle "on"?
November 17, 2018 11:28 AM   Subscribe

How do I know when I'm ready to "settle down"? Can a single person "settle down"? This question is specifically about getting a dog and furniture, and more existentially about a person's reasons for and ability to make long-term plans.

(Skip to the bottom for the actual questions.)

I've been extremely lucky the last few years. I had a job that paid me well enough to take a month-long vacation abroad, spend various holidays with a friend in a nearby city, and spend this last year traveling and going to grad school abroad. I'm now at the point where (I'm almost broke and) it's time to choose a city, find a job, and stay put for a while.

I think I've narrowed down my next city to either Chicago or New York because I have a good friend or two in each city (friends who will probably move away in the next 2-5 years) and this is important to me right now. All of my family and most of my friends will not be living near Chicago or New York, so I will travel occasionally to see them. I'm also aware I will most likely not be able to afford a dog or an apartment with fewer than 3 roommates if I move to New York, but I have wanted to experience living in New York while my friend still lives there (although this desire is decreasing with age). I'm aware I don't have 100% control over which companies in which city will make me job offers.

I always assumed that "settling down" would happen when I magically found a solid partner and had a reason to stay in one place, could split rent with someone, and have another person to help take care of the dog, but this isn't in the cards for me right now. I'm currently in a relationship with a really great person, but due to financial and visa issues (and my inability to find a job here), I anticipate the relationship ending once I return to the U.S. I've previously had pretty consistently annoying dating experiences (see post history for an example), and although I'd like to take a year dating hiatus after my current relationship, I would like to find a long-term (permanent?) partner in the next decade ideally. Although, again, I have no real control over this.

Once I've lined up a job in one of these cities, I would really like to "settle down" as a single person, which to me means living with as few roommates as possible, finding a place for myself where I can invest in some furniture to set up my apartment the way *I* like, and getting a dog regardless of finding a partner. I feel like life is filled with too many unknowns for me to guarantee anything about the next 1, 3, or 10 years of my life, however, and apparently that's an important thing to have before getting a dog.

The questions: I'm 29 soon and I'd like to increase my quality of life by getting the things I've wanted for years. I want to settle down, but I'm not sure I'm ready. Is this reasonable for where I am in life? Or is getting a studio and buying my own furniture a waste of money -- and as my friends and family say, do I travel too much to have a dog for the next 10-15 years, even though in the past 10 years I haven't traveled so much as I've moved (with a few exceptions) and I don't anticipate having those opportunities again anytime soon? And what if I "settle down," but then for some unforeseeable reason, I decide to "un-settle down"? I feel like I have very little control over how my life goes. The whole appeal of Chicago is the idea of "settling down" with a studio apartment and a dog and living the life I felt I couldn't have yet because I never met the right partner and I had other things to do in the meantime. On the other hand, would doing those things mean limiting my other possibilities and ... settling, somehow? What do you think? Am I overthinking this?
posted by Penguin48 to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You keep saying settle down, but it's not clear on what that means to you? To me, settle down heavily implies suburban-style parenting (playdates, soccer games, SAT prep). But it sounds like it means something different to you? Maybe staying in one place long enough to make connections/put down roots/feel at home?

It sounds like what you want is a place of your own, with your own furniture, and a dog. Those are very legit wants. Make the choices that will get you closer to that goal.
posted by basalganglia at 11:48 AM on November 17, 2018 [7 favorites]

At some point in my late 20s, I told my parents I wasn't ever going to get married and they started buying me nice pots and pans and other kitchen appliances for every holiday; now I'm 36 and still never going to get married and I have the kitchen of a person who had a very nice wedding. I also inherited a nice coffee table, and decided to pick out and buy a nice couch after years of putting slipcovers on one I literally pulled off the curb in college. I'm not "settled down" in any traditional sense (I'll probably have to move soon, I'll likely never live with a partner, and kids are definitely not in the cards for me), but I really love having a nice, comfortable home where everything feels like I picked it out.

I realize the above paragraph was all about me, but what I really mean is: do it. Rather than thinking about this as settling down, or "settling" for something lesser, you might think of it as settling in, to your apartment/self/adulthood. It's very much worth doing. And pets do help.
posted by dizziest at 12:19 PM on November 17, 2018 [39 favorites]

I got my dog at 28 as a poor grad student with an uncertain future (and I'm still a poor grad student with an uncertain future!) I've had to get people to take care of my precious dog while I've gone abroad for my research for months at a time, which was stressful and did cost me some money but was manageable. If you feel like you might get wanderlust to the point where you'll need to give up your dog, I wouldn't recommend it. But if you need to take a vacation every once in awhile, then no worries! She's the best decision I've ever made - she's gotten me through some really crappy times in my life, and she gets me out and meeting new people every day. Having a dog is the best. That being said: make sure the tenancy laws in your chosen city are fairly dog-friendly. There have been a few times where I've had to consider moving to a different city entirely because it was so hard to find a place to live with her, and that was insanely stressful.

I've also purchased furniture as a poor grad student (mostly from IKEA and Craigslist). I have also had to sell a bunch of my furniture on occasion due to moves (because the housing market where I live is horrendous). It happens. There's nothing wrong with making your life comfortable and enjoyable as it stands currently. As you've said, life can be unpredictable. Why not just buy some furniture and feel like you have your own personal space to relax in the meantime?
posted by thebots at 12:22 PM on November 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you feel like finding a location you like and want to stay there for the foreseeable future by all means get some of the things you want and get settled. I am a bit older than you but I kinda just picked somewhere I liked, rented an apartment I liked and over time, replaced my cheap/inherited furniture with things that felt nicer and that I love. Been in my current flat for five years now and feel very much settled. I had to travel a lot for work over the last year and the difference coming home, to my place and my things, made for my ability to relax was astonishing.

If you have the time and funds to look after a dog by all means get one. If not perhaps you can volunteer at a shelter and still get your doggie fix.

If your life changes, it changes. You can sell things, break leases and rehome pets if required.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:24 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

You're overthinking this because what you want to do does not conform to the default contemporary American life narrative. The narrative is that you're supposed to first find a partner, then settle down together. However, as you've noticed, that can seem like kind of a waste of time and money when what you really want right now is to have a stable living situation where you can put down some roots, get a dog, etc. You don't want to spend the next three to five years in a sub-optimal, unstable living situation while you search for a partner with whom you want to settle down.

I'm in the same boat, but for somewhat different reasons. I've been living with my parents for the last few years while I sort of build up my life after having things kind of fall apart a while back. I've been here a while now, but it's always felt strictly transitional, not what I wanted, and I haven't felt able to date because A) I'm not living in an area where I plan to stay or where there are many people who I would be interested in dating and B) hello, I live with my parents. So for me the plan has always been to work toward moving out of here. I've been working on building a career that I like and that will allow me to live independently on my own terms.

Recently I finally made it to the point where I can make that a reality, and started seriously looking for a place to live in an area that I think I can be happy in. The first thing I noticed though was that there's not really a great financial move that sits in between, "Live in a run-down apartment with a bunch of roommates like I'm in college again," and "Just buy my own damn house and be done with it." Like, the rent that I would pay to have a mid-range one-bedroom apartment to myself is easily more than the mortgage payments on a mid-range three-bedroom house, which just seems insane but that's how it is. I was fortunate enough to be able to get a deposit together, so buying a house really just seemed like the obvious way to go.

So I went for it! I close in a few weeks. It felt a bit odd to be buying a house by myself, but I wasn't about to live with a bunch of strangers, throwing a third of my paycheck into some slumlord's bank account every month for the next few years, just because I hadn't found a partner yet. I'd still like to find a partner at some point, but I'm excited for me about this move, excited about what it means for my life. I'm going to move in, set up shop, and then make looking for a partner my next step. Assuming I find one, maybe she'll eventually want to move in with me. Maybe not, maybe something else will make more sense, but who knows? I'll figure that out whenever that happy day comes to pass, and in the meantime I'll feel a lot better about both my life in general and my prospects as a potential partner if I'm living my best life on my own terms than if I'm living like a student in my mid-30s.

If a place of your own and a dog are what you want, and you're in a position to have them, go for it. Why wait? Why hold your life in limbo? Live authentically, do the things you want to do. Progress, move forward into the next phase of your life. If you want that phase to be a more settled, stable, dog-having phase then that's great, do it up. Don't settle for less because you haven't ticked all the boxes that society tells you should be ticked before you settle down. If it's what you want, you should have it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:42 PM on November 17, 2018 [20 favorites]

(If you're not sure that you're ready for fifteen years of dog-having, adopting an older dog might be a good option. Senior dogs have a hard time getting adopted but also they are the best dogs. There are lots of Good Boys and Girls out there looking for homes. Getting a young dog and then rehoming it later is a jerk move.)
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:57 PM on November 17, 2018 [22 favorites]

I came in to say what Anticipation said (and much better), hear hear! So I'll say something else. As you go through life, there will always be pathways closed to you for various reasons. And there will always be pathways open. What they are just differ. Some of those options not being available will come with some negative emotions - it will happen. But the options that are available can come with great happiness, too. And sometimes we make big choices that change what those options are, and if it helps, think about it that way - you're just trading one set of options for another. You're not settling down, you're choosing one set of possibilities over another.

Take getting a dog. For example, with a dog, you can still travel - maybe not a month at a time, but you can board a dog or get a dog sitter for a week or ten days. You could even travel every weekend if you do dog friendly travel and take your dog with you. What's happened is that you've traded in one set of travel options for another! But you can still do it. But, for example, it makes it harder to go out for after work drinks because have to feed and let out the dog. You might not be able to keep hitting snooze, because you have to walk the dog before work. You might not get that couch you want because you have to pay for doggie day care or the vet bill because your pet ate a rubber ball. You'll get tail wagging happiness, but you might get the heart clutching fear and guilt when the dog gets in the garbage after not ever getting the garbage for 6 years and you know there was half a bag of rotten grapes in there, and you're running the dog to vet because you can't find them. As a dog owner myself I think it's worth it, but I'd say that once having accepting the long-term options of owning a dog, in many ways it's living life every day in which my options have changed - the future stuff will just have to work out somehow, but having that second drink might be a no go because I need to go home. Does that make sense?

Here's the thing - although it may seem that way, most of the time choosing a particular set of options is not as permanent as you may think, and it's OK to change your mind, and it's okay to go after the pathways in which you think you'll be happy. And yes, there are things - children, a relationship you may have screwed up, debt - which are permanent or very long term. (I also definitely don't want to be all Pollyanna Privilege, cooing that anybody can do anything, and not acknowledge that choices are limited for many reasons for many people - due to the nature of your question I'm assuming you do have certain choices, please don't mistake my intentions here.) But many many many things are not permanent. You may decide after a year in Chicago that furniture isn't actually what you want and decide that a life on a houseboat someplace in California is awesome, and guess what? You can take your dog with you. Or you may LOVE your place and decide that you want is to stay in every weekend and redo it all the time and open up a website cataloging your efforts. You may do both and everything in between! If you think that you may still want to travel in 3 years for awhile again, then you may decide to rent and not buy a house. You may realize after a few months that travel is important but so is having a home, so you may decide to buy furniture off of Craigslist and save your money for going to Africa for two weeks. Or maybe you don't like your chosen career, so you drop it and decide to become a welder. And that's OKAY.

If I may say so, it sounds like what you really desire is some stability and your own space, which are definitely legitimate wants as someone upthread said. Oh my goodness, yes. And you can have both of those living on a sailboat in the Bahamas (with your dog) if that's what you desire and depending on how you define stability (maybe it's working in a bar in the evenings and going to the beach in the morning and having sail adventures in your time off). (Remember: not only are you in control of your possibilities, you're also in control of how you define them.) Right now, for you, it sounds like those things may come with your own place and staying in one spot for awhile, and exploring all the rich possibilities that kind of life offers. Or maybe you have the burden of student debt and you want to get some of it out of the way, and that's what's important right now. If that's what you think you want, what you are pondering is going after what you want. If you discover that it isn't, you can change your mind. It's okay! Sell your furniture, as someone said. Find a new job!

And I just want to say - I'm married. I have a house. But I've also lived in 3 different states in 10 years (in the last 15 years I've moved more than 10 times!). With a dog! There was a time in life when I thought I wanted the nice house and all the things, basically because I had been told that's what I should want, but trying for all that didn't make me happy because it wasn't me, so I chose differently. The house we live in now is quite small and we went 2 years without a couch because we decided to invest in some really nice backpacking equipment instead because that was more important to us. Did our parents understand this? Fuck no. But it's not their lives. It's ours. I'll be blunt - I crave chaos and action and really itch to wander. But realistically, I require stability in order to function. So we designed a home and a homelife that is a compromise of that. For you, it might be having your own couch and a dog. Only you can decide and know what this right now.

There's a phrase I read the other day that I really like, and that's to "design our homes for our lives, not our stuff" that I think really kind of captures my current set of possibilities and the way we approach things. Because I think of stuff not necessarily as material items but all the pressures of society to live life a certain way, and as result we buy things in order to live up to those expectations. IMHO "stuff" is things that come with a psychological burden, varying from your parents' expectations to having a home you can Instagram. (A chair you just adore that is the perfect chair for you is not "stuff".) That's "settling down" in my mind, and there's a big difference between that and your choosing to get a home with the couch *you* want because that's what you desire.

If I've come off as little strong, it's because it took me a long time to figure out that I don't have to live life the way society says I have to, and I super wish I'd learned that while I was much younger. Go after what you want, dear heart, and don't put pressure on yourself about "settling". You have your entire life to figure things out, and grow, and change, and you won't ever be done, and that's wonderful.
posted by barchan at 1:52 PM on November 17, 2018 [11 favorites]

I'm 32 and single and historically rootless, and in the last year bought a Very Large Painting and acquired a sweetheart of a cat and am slowly turning my charming (rental) house into a home with used furniture and wall art.

I have no idea how long I'll be in this rental or this part of the world, but everything is movable, including the cat. In the meantime, it is psychologically valuable for me to feel like I'm taking up space in the world. It sounds like you're ready for this too - best of luck and enjoy it!
posted by toastedcheese at 2:03 PM on November 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm a few years older than you, and have reached the point where all of my friends -- single and partnered and otherwise -- have "settled down" in terms of having a place to live, sans random roommates, with comfortable furniture and pets if they want 'em. Most of us rent because...millennials. I've been in the same apartment for five years, we just finally bought a new couch and a "real" bed, we have dinnerware and cooking stuff that we like, and it's great.

One of the other things that's great about Chicago and New York -- and I'm partial to Chicago, because it's my home and also because not having random roommates is awesome -- is that they are so enormous that you can both be settled and be constantly surprised. We did a project for a while where we'd go to a different neighborhood each weekend to go to a random museum and eat some food; we ran out of steam long before we ran out of neighborhoods or museums. This city has more art exhibits than you could ever visit, more plays than you could ever see, more restaurants than you could ever eat at, more parties than you could ever attend.

If you move to Chicago, then you're more likely to be able to afford your own place and still afford to travel, plus you'll have the entire city to explore. And if you stay, you'll have a chance to build a community here, which to me is the very best part of settling down. Yeah I guess I settled down here, but it's never felt like settling for.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:04 PM on November 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

If you want a dog, Chicago sounds like an easier place to do that. In fact, I've never heard of anyone moving to NYC to settle down. I wouldn’t want to leave a dog home all day while I was at work, so I'd invest in a walking service. Broadly speaking - take on whatever's manageable in the moment. Concentrate on those aspects of living that make you feel “settled”, whether that's having a dog, cooking, sleeping in a nice bedroom, watching TV or listening to a nice stereo. Lots of us who thought we'd settled down have found outselves divorced and back in apartments years later, so focusing in on what it is that you find rewarding is better than throwing your money in every direction - don’t feel pressured to do it all.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:09 PM on November 17, 2018

Like, the rent that I would pay to have a mid-range one-bedroom apartment to myself is easily more than the mortgage payments on a mid-range three-bedroom house, which just seems insane but that's how it is.

I don't know about Chicago, but this is definitely not the case in NYC.

From a practical point of view, OP, having a dog as a single in NYC is tough. Landlords are more welcoming than in the past, though it will still somewhat limit your choices. The big issue is walks during the day. Daily short walks during the workday will run you $350-$400/mo. in Manhattan. That's a lot of scratch. But if you're earning well, you can solve virtually all dog logistics with a simple application of cash. There are even companies that will take your dog out of the city into nature for hikes for you.

And I moved back to NYC to settle down, at least as much as I am ever likely to fit the term, so there.
posted by praemunire at 6:30 PM on November 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

"On the other hand, would doing those things mean limiting my other possibilities and ... settling, somehow?"

Well, yes. You are at an age where choices you make are going to start to close off other choices. But choosing to keep living a romantic vagabond lifestyle means you're missing out on other things you want -- nice furniture, a place of your own, a dog. Choosing the furniture/place/dog will close off some other things -- it won't be nearly as easy to pick up and move on a whim (especially internationally), and traveling will be more complicated. But that's okay! You can choose things that make you happy, even if it means you won't be able to do other things. (And, later on, you can choose to sell all your worldly possessions and roam the world again!)

My husband and I have one friend, whom we've known for like 25 years now, who suffers from what we joke is extreme FOMO (fear of missing out). If you ask him what his ideal life is like, he's married and has kids and a house with a lawn and goes to T-ball games. But he's always had this incredible fear of settling for second-best or missing out on things. He repeatedly dumped AMAZING women he was dating because he was pretty sure he could "do better." He has put off buying property because he might want to move to a "better" city. He is perpetually job-hunting no matter how great his job is because he's always after a better job. The upshot of this is that by constantly chasing after that "better" woman, better city, better condo, better job, he is nearly 50, bitterly unhappy, and still waiting for his life to start, with exactly none of the things he really wants out of life, because he's so terrified that if he settles down with one woman, he'll meet a better one he should have held out for. If he buys a condo in one city, there'll be another, cooler city he'll have WISHED he'd moved to a year later.

So don't be like my friend and let the fear of missing out on possible futures cause you to ACTUALLY miss out on the life you want to live. Get the condo near the dog park, and some furniture you like, and a dog! If your situation changes, well, people's situations change all the time -- you sell the condo and move. You take the dog with. You put your furniture in storage. You pay movers to move it. You sell it on Craigslist and start over. You find an awesome doggy day care that does boarding if you suddenly have to travel a lot for work. You have so many options! Choose the life you actually want, with the knowledge that you can always make changes later on when the things you want change.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:57 PM on November 17, 2018 [7 favorites]

You're presenting this as a dichotomy when it's not. Get the dog, live where you can afford and find care for him/her when you want to travel. You can take the best parts of settling down and the best parts of not settling down and create a hybrid between them. Only you can decide what this looks like. Your ideal life doesn't have to fit into these neat little boxes. It's not either/or.

Find what you love and find what makes you happy and do it. It sounds like you have the means. Life is short; don't waste it trying to do what others arbitrarily deem as right.
posted by Amy93 at 8:26 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I know a wonderful woman who I think is in her sixties at this point. She's lived in the same NYC 1-bedroom for at least seven years, with a sofa and a dining room table and a collection of vintage china and a shelving unit full of pots and pans and until recently a cat. (Which, granted, is logistically much easier than a dog.)

She continues to travel, most recently for a month in England to house-sit for a friend, but more prosaically for a weekend at a time to large gatherings related to her hobby. This is less than she used to travel, and her increased stability has opened up possibilities not available to a more peripatetic person: she served multiple terms on the board of her local hobby organization and remains heavily involved in producing local hobby events after the end of her last term.

In the last few years she's gotten quite involved with her local postcards to voters group, which I think formed around her after she made a few political comments on the blogs of some food writers she enjoys. So now she spends every Sunday eating and hobnobbing and, yes, writing, with a bunch of published food writers.

She is still single, and it's very likely that she will remain so, though not entirely from lack of choice. She was seeing someone for a bit a few years ago. She broke it off after a bit. It sounds like he was more into her than she felt able to reciprocate.

We're going to have Christmas Eve dinner together, probably for the fourth(?) year in a row.

My point is, it's entirely possible to be firmly settled and single and yet to have a rich and satisfying life.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 8:28 PM on November 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

You're presenting this as a dichotomy when it's not.

When I was your age I bought my first piece of grown-up furniture. A big cozy blue armchair. A couple years later I moved cross-country and had to move my spare tire to the roof of my Jeep so I could transport the chair inside the Jeep. After a few years in San Francisco I found myself living in a 350 square-foot room in the YMCA. I asked the building manager if I could store my big blue chair in the common space and she said sure. It was stolen within 48 hours. I was angry for a few days but then chalked it up to the adventure.

I can't speak to dog ownership - it's something I've never had or wanted. But I don't think having a dog means you're "settling down." You can always find the accommodation you need for your dog for your adventure if you look hard enough or have money to throw at the issue.

And I know I'm totally being an old lady here but you're still young. You don't *need* to make a decision to settle down. Live in Chicago for a couple years, decide what you like or don't like. Then try New York. Then try Amsterdam. Krakow. Colombo. You don't have to find your forever place this year or next year or the year after that.

If you happen to find a partner during your adventures then you can both work out where you'd like to live.
posted by bendy at 3:14 AM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you're afraid of making the wrong decision, because you are sensing, accurately, that when you start making decisions about how you want your life to be it means closing off other possibilities. But that's ok! In fact, it's necessary.

Getting a dog means you won't be able to be as spontaneous, means you will have to spend a decent chunk of your income on caring and providing for the dog, and means moving abroad (if that's something that interests you) would become more complicated and expensive. Of course having a dog means a constant friend, a snuggle buddy, an increased understanding of love, a sense of meaning and purpose. Which one do you want more? There isn't a right or wrong answer generally, but there's a right answer for YOU.

I don't think finding a nice studio apartment and getting some decent furniture needs to be a big scary "settling down" situation. You need a place to live and you deserve to be comfortable. Apartment leases end, furniture can be sold (or moved). You can be settled into an apartment that's nicely furnished for as short or long a period as you like.

For context, I am a 29 year old single woman living in Chicago, so I can relate a lot to what you're going through. A couple years ago I decided to stop waiting on the right person to come into my life to make it "time to be settled and happy" and to start building my own life for myself. I bought a house (and got a wonderful roommate.) I have a garden. I made new friends, as I was new to Chicago. I already had a dog, but last week I adopted a second puppy. I have furniture I love, much of which I got secondhand and I'm saving up for a perfect new couch. I hung art on my painted walls. And you know what? It's wonderful. I can highly recommend settling down on your own in general, and more specifically in Chicago - it's a great place and easy to live here.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 6:13 AM on November 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

I just want to add the perspective that nothing is really keeping you from moving again in a few years if that's what you want, or need, to do. I bought a house in 2016, then Brexit (and a few personal things) happened, and I took all my furniture and my wall art and my two cats and moved country. Yes, it was somewhat more involved than my previous move in the same city with one cat, less art and less furniture, but it was not nearly as awful as I feared.

Also FWIW, when I was 29 I thought I'd never settle down, then a few years later bought a flat and thought "I'm staying in this town forever", and then 10 years later I left that town. Things change! It's okay to think in terms of "right now". And it's also okay to make one decision and change your mind later! (things become more complicated with a partner of course, and I freelance so I didn't have to switch jobs. But pets can totally be moved.)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 11:05 AM on November 18, 2018

Getting your own studio and buying nice furniture is not a waste of money! You deserve to have your house the way you want it, regardless of whether you're single or not! Everyone has to determine for themselves what being settled down means, but if having nice furniture is important to you , then go for it! if it's not, then use that money on something else that means something to you!
For me, I'm single and 30, I have my own studio in a neighbourhood I love, and lots of close friends, and I feel just settled enough to feel a sense of community and familiarity and sense that I'm "at home" where I live, but also feel like I still have enough freedom to explore things, have adventures and meet new people. I tell you, it's the best of all worlds!
Settling in one place doesn't mean you're giving up on opportunities, and getting a nice apartment doesn't mean you're giving up on finding a life partner. (actually, dating is a lot easier and nicer when roommates aren't in the way). Living alone has been the best living situation I've ever had ,and my love life has not suffered at all. Don't give in to the pressure of conformity, you'll find your people!
posted by winterportage at 11:36 AM on November 18, 2018

You mentioned visas in your question, so I figured I'd share my perspective as someone whose life has been dictated by visas.

For most of my life I couldn't fathom the idea of "settling down". This was mainly because I only ever lived in places that either had a visa end date (I would have happily lived in San Francisco forever if it weren't for this), or there wasn't technically an end date but visa-related circumstances made it almost impossible for me to really thrive there (I could have lived in Brisbane for as long as I wanted, but I was stuck on a bridging visa that made it impossible to find work or do much of anything - so it was Leave or Die). I am a life-long traveller. Everyone I care about is spread around the world. My family (direct, extended, ancestral) are all landlords or property owners or basically Really Into Having A Home; I never understood that. I never hung around long enough for a permanent abode to make sense. I'd rather buy a private jet and go anywhere I want.

I moved to Melbourne 2.5 years ago not really expecting anything. My Australian PR came in, which theoretically meant all the bridging visa stuff would be resolved (not really, but that's a separate rant). I had no end date, and it wasn't a city I'd completely exhausted, and I could get the mental health and social support I was lacking when I was with my parents in Malaysia for 9 months (no end date but man is that country hostile to people like me). It was the first time I was in a situation where I had no reason to leave, but also no obligation to stay (unlike say a student visa). It was SO WEIRD! It was no SF, but it was kind of the best of meh options, so.

I honestly thought this would be just as temporary as every other city, especially when it took a long time for me to really feel connected to anyone and anything here. But I found some bridges who connected me to others, and these others have shown me so much support and love (even when things went poorly, like one of those bridges turning out to be a douchebag) that suddenly I feel much more comfortable settling down.

In the past year I started and launched a long-term art project, one that has a continued lifespan. If some behind-the-scenes things work out, I might be a homeowner very soon. I have no reason to leave, no obligation to stay - yet there's nothing really calling out to me to leave, nor is there anything here pushing me out (well, politics here are not great, but that's going to be the same wherever). I'm single currently, but marriage doesn't really scare me as much as it used to (not so much the commitment to the other person, but more that I suck at long-distance relationships and couldn't promise I'd stay). Hell I'm suddenly in a position where I can sponsor other people's visas. I couldn't imagine any of that even a year ago and it's so weird! And what's weirder: I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to some stability, the long haul, to putting down roots.

I know myself well enough to know that I may very well change my mind at some point. I tend to go into 3-5 year cycles - maybe in a few years I'll find something else in some other city that calls me, or I get into a relationship that takes me somewhere else, or I'm forced out due to terrible politics, or whatever. But I think I can manage that if it comes because that's what I'm used to. Right now though I'm dreaming of what I want my home to look like, I'm building relationships (personal & professional) with long-term goals, I can think of the future in a way previously denied to me because of my immigration status. I'm still wrapping my head around it but there's a certain kind of peace to it too.

Good luck!
posted by divabat at 9:26 PM on November 18, 2018

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