I moved to Columbus, OH. And bought a house. It was a huge mistake.
May 1, 2022 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Please bare with me as I try to get through this question. I've just spent the past hour sobbing. I'm stuck here for at least a year. How do I handle this?

I ended a long-term relationship a year before the start of the pandemic and the ensuing two years were just terrible. I've long struggled with depression but the stress of a demanding job and the isolation just ... well, ya'll know.

After 15 years in the Southwest, I made the decision to move to Columbus. I have a friend or two here and had started seeing a man who lives in Chicago (I thought about a move there but ultimately, couldn't get past concerns about safety as a single woman who doesn't know the city very well ... and things weren't serious enough with the guy to consider moving there for him). I'm from NYC and convinced myself that Columbus was at least a shorter flight home and an easy drive to other cities where there might be fun and excitement. My parents are in Phoenix and I had taken on the responsibility of being The Local Child while my siblings are back on the east coast. And the Chicago Guy seemed heartened by the prospect of exploring our relationship further since I'd be closer.

So, now I'm here:

1. At least one of the friends is ultimately not someone I want to spend time with. The other is a busy mom and business owner.
2. I way overpaid for a charming-but-needs-cosmetic-work historic home.
3. Chicago Dude apparently liked it better when the possibility of a more serious relationship with me was only a possibility and has decided he's not up for anything more (despite a fervent pursuit for a year).

I am almost 52 years old. I'm too old to be making such stupid decisions and I've been really unsuccessful today in telling myself that this will all be alright. I've joined the Meetups and planned a trip to see a close friend in Cleveland. I only have to stay in the house for a year before I can rent it out (but I am SO) tired of moving.

Please tell me this will be OK and I haven't completely ruined my life. I need to get mentally prepared for work and right now, all I can do is sob.
posted by simonelikenina to Human Relations (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Where is the timeline that you "have to stay in the house for a year before you can rent it out" coming from?
posted by saturdaymornings at 4:41 PM on May 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The mortgage company. :)
posted by simonelikenina at 4:43 PM on May 1, 2022

Best answer: I love to rip on Columbus and Ohio but every time I visit relatives there it is really nice and I enjoy myself. Yes it is flat. Once you move past that, there is a lot going on. The farmer’s markets are amazing. There are shows and concerts. The parks are not exactly full of wild animals but they are very pretty and well laid out for walking or biking. If you give it a chance it has a lot to offer.
posted by kerf at 4:51 PM on May 1, 2022 [11 favorites]

Talk to a mortgage broker and reconsider how solid that is.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:53 PM on May 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Columbus is actually a cool offbeat city once you get to know it and it’s close to Pittsburgh and Chicago, which would be easy weekend trips. I feel like you’re conflating heartbreak from Chicago dude getting cold feet and pandemic/breakup fatigue with being discontent with all of your choices. You will adjust, but I suggest going solo for a while and just being kind to yourself. Try to go out and just be outside of yourself for a while, be in nature, absorb the city around you.
posted by Cyber666 at 5:07 PM on May 1, 2022 [21 favorites]

Best answer: I just want to give you a hug! The disillusionment you've experienced in your romantic situation sounds so crushing. I think it was really brave of you to make the leap and I'm sorry that your landing hasn't been softer. I wonder if the social situation with your friend + the romantic situation with Chicago dude could be making everything feel way worse?

I have heard about this rule of needing to reside in the house for one year before renting it out as well - you should ask around to see if anybody has bent those rules/if there is any loophole. I have a friend of a friend who apparently somehow got around this in Boston so it may be possible where you are as well. You could also clarify if that requirement means one calendar year or if one year from January 1st through December 31st (which is what it is where I live).

Columbus has its charms-- I recently visited (though for a short time) and fellow mefilte kevinbelt was super helpful in helping me get the most out of my visit. Gotta get a to-do list if you'll be in town for only a year! ;-)
posted by gemutlichkeit at 5:13 PM on May 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Search suggests multiple past MeFit meetups in Columbus, so that's one possibility for expanding your social circle + getting some pointers on getting more comfortably and interestingly settled. All the MeFites I've met IRL have been smart, plugged-in and kind people.

I think, if I were in your position, I'd work on some house projects, start exploring (my impression, based on a few visits to Columbus in the past is that it will reward this), try to see some live music, and maybe do a little light, low-to-no expectations dating via the apps.

I am in your age group, so sympathize completely with your anxiety here - still, it doesn't sound to me like a situation with no potential for good outcomes, or at least a relatively peaceful and productive year while you figure out your next steps.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:14 PM on May 1, 2022

Focus on fixing up your house, make money off it on two years, no capital gains after 2 years. You have lots of life to live, there are more fish in the sea.
posted by Oyéah at 5:14 PM on May 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

You're never too old to make a bad decision--but remember that means that you're never too old to make a good decision, either. Hugs to you.
posted by kingdead at 5:27 PM on May 1, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Is there a chance (and I only ask this because I'm going through it myself) that your emotions around this are being exacerbated by your hormones? Not saying that it doesn't legitimately suck, but 52 is a very weepy age for many of us. You really will be okay. I think you were terribly brave to pick up sticks and move there all by yourself. I sometimes contemplate doing something similar and I just can't imagine having the energy and confidence to see it through. So you obviously are a courageous and capable person, you're just understandably feeling beaten down right now. Rest up. Let things be for a little while. When you're feeling better, talk to an agent and see if this bonkers housing market might allow you to break even if you sell. But no, you haven't ruined your life. You're a homeowner with a job, friends, and family. You're going to be just fine.
posted by HotToddy at 5:32 PM on May 1, 2022 [20 favorites]

It'll work out, I promise. My sister enjoyed her time in Columbus until she didn't and managed to move on when the time was right despite a much more punishing series of events and having to sell her house at an absolutely terrible time.

In the meantime, there's a lot to do there, especially now that winter is finishing up. Plus it's a decently located base for doing things/visiting places elsewhere in the state. Give it some time and you'll find some friends.
posted by wierdo at 5:38 PM on May 1, 2022

Best answer: I'm too old to be making such stupid decisions...

sorry, no. we make choices until we die, and then more later maybe.

beginning again can suck. especially if we've been here before.

this will be OK and you haven't completely ruined your life.

i had to begin again recently, and I'm older than you. i asked myself (and my shrink): how the fuck did i get here, again? she prompted, "do you know anyone who has found themselves in the same spot a lot of times?" that was a trick question. i have a grown son who's an addict in recovery.

so we met up and i asked him his techniques. he sighed deeply, because he knows a lotta stories like this. then,

"what you have is a classic crashed airplane
in the jungle problem. for whatever reason, the plane crashed.
  • the question isn't 'why?', it's 'what's next?' Right now, you don't need to give a fuck 'why', or start a shame cycle. you need to make a plan and get moving.
  • there will be a relationship vaccuum. you might have left people behind. it's your problem and responsibility to create new strong relationships. you'll need a team.
  • Look around (and within) and identify your assets: skills, and tools, and bottled water, and heart... it's more than you think.
  • Help is available. Ask for it.
a parting note, via my shrink: stop thinking 'good' or 'bad' decisions. people don't in actuality make good or bad decisions. they make the best decision they could at the time. alternatively stated, "we do what occurs to us." taking judgement out is super useful.

best - j_
posted by j_curiouser at 5:43 PM on May 1, 2022 [84 favorites]

It’s probably true that the terms of your mortgage require you to occupy for one year, but unless you used a special program (like a first time homebuyer grant or special interest rate), there’s virtually no chance this would ever be enforced (based on 25+ years overseeing mortgage lenders). At the end of the day the lender just wants you to make the payment. You bought the house intending to reside in it, your circumstances are changing, your use of the house may change. There may be other reasons to stay for a little while - maybe fix it up a little and increase your financial recovery, but don’t think twice about renting it if that’s what’s best for you.
posted by tinymojo at 5:53 PM on May 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all SO much. I've dried my tears, ordered some dinner and continued with a bit of unpacking. So many helpful and supportive comments. J_curioser, special thanks for your thoughtful step-by-step guide to feeling less like an idiot and more like I'm having a human experience.
posted by simonelikenina at 5:59 PM on May 1, 2022 [28 favorites]

Hey I live an hour from Columbus and would be happy to meet up for coffee here or in the city. Memail me if interested.

You’re going to be ok. You made a decision that was moving towards new things - that is brave!
posted by Lawn Beaver at 6:24 PM on May 1, 2022 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know if this will actually help you all that much, but for what it's worth, I'm the flip side of your coin. I live in Columbus until I was 37, and moved away five years ago. I've spent literally every day since then regretting that decision, often actually crying. What I wouldn't give to trade places with you right now. I totally get why you feel the way you do, but alas I haven't figured out a solution. I just look at Columbus on Google Street View for hours a day.

In the interests of being helpful, I'll try to address your concerns. The thing I'd worry about the least is the house. Columbus is a good real estate market. You probably didn't actually overpay; you may have paid more than the house is worth *to you*, but I bet the market supports the price you paid, and that means that if you choose to sell in a year, the market will probably support a price that allows you to make a little profit.

I also wouldn't worry about Chicago dude all that much. For one thing, Chicago isn't *that* close to Columbus. I mean, flying is only an hour, but how often would you fly there? Driving is still six hours, and that's a time commitment. It's pretty difficult to do in a weekend if you want time to actually hang out. It's still a long distance relationship.

IMO, Columbus's biggest positive is its proximity to other cities. 50% of the US population is within a day's drive. That includes Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, Louisville, Nashville, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis, plus Toronto. That's enough to keep you busy, and it's not even taking smaller tourist spots like the Hocking Hills, Frankenmuth, Michigan, or Kentucky horse country into consideration. There are enough day trips that you could go somewhere every weekend for a year. It gives you a lot of possibilities if you feel like you can't take it.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:29 PM on May 1, 2022 [21 favorites]

I think you should give this new chapter of your life a fair chance. Moving can be very discombobulating, even when all goes well, as it's so much work and such a huge readjustment, so give yourself time to settle in before you decide whether it's been a mistake. Yes, it's very disappointing, even heartbreaking, to have counted on the possibility of a relationship and two friends and then have it not pan out, but remember, you're in a new city and can meet other people. Doing cosmetic work to a charming house could be pretty satisfying too -- decorating is the fun part of home renovations.

I'd try to see exploring your new city, meeting new people, and making your new house into the perfect home for you as exciting opportunities rather than focusing on the negative aspects of your move. In a year's time you may feel the move was the best choice for you after all.
posted by orange swan at 6:46 PM on May 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

(I thought Columbus was closer to Chicago, like three hours). Seconding Louisville for a weekend trip or an event or two, especially in the spring/fall. Absolutely gorgeous nature and amazing food.
posted by Cyber666 at 6:59 PM on May 1, 2022

Best answer: It's incredibly common for adults who move to new places to hit a dark stretch after a few months, once the excitement of the change wears off. Incredibly. I'm not saying you have to stay in Columbus, but do give it some time. You certainly didn't ruin your life. At the worst, you took a chance that didn't pay off. The alternative to taking chances, at least while you're still capable of it, is complete stagnation and letting your life ossify around you.
posted by praemunire at 7:34 PM on May 1, 2022 [15 favorites]

A bad decision is a BAD decision:


You made a decision, it turned out to not be right for you. I'm so sorry!! That sucks. Sending virtual hugs.

Mentally reframe this as a potential adventure, and find small things to enjoy every day. Treat yourself gently.

This thing that was done can be undone with two things: time, and money. Time - your house may appreciate in value in a year, or you may come to find that you like it there better than you did. Money - see which things can be done that bump up your home's value (like a kitchen remodel), and do them within the next 4-6 months - so that you can have several months to actually enjoy the whatever-it-is before you sell. :)

Don't make decisions that involve a lot of expense for, oh, the next two weeks. Give yourself time to breathe. You're not in a leaky lifeboat, speedy decisions aren't what's needed here.

Go see a doctor and see if you're menopausal (because, yeah, it's a stressful thing that can mess with your body chemistry.) If you are, it's not a take-a-pill-and-fix-it thing, but having this self-knowledge might help you reframe how you're feeling.

Look on Meetup for local events that you'd like to attend or activities you'd like to do - that way, even if you don't make a lifelong new friend, you've done a thing that you enjoy.

If you move again, make the move for reasons not involved with other people being there for you. Don't let others be in sole control of your happiness.

You have most certainly not ruined your life. You've just taken a detour.
posted by Tailkinker to-Ennien at 8:23 PM on May 1, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: There was a point in my life when I moved from NYC to Chicago on 8 days notice. Literally. My partner suggested the move to trade on the Board of Trade and the CBOE. I was young. I flew out there round-trip for a day, found an apartment, spent the week and packed and literally 8 days later I woke up in Chicago wondering wtf happened. I was miserable and lonely for the first month. All my time was spent at work or unpacking. I woke up one day and said to myself, "Self, give it 5 more months before you bail. In those 5 months do whatever you can to acclimate.

I decided to make a list of all the Chicago things I should do. Burger at the Billy Goat Tavern (No fries, chips!) check. Sit in the Bleachers at Wrtigley, check. Commisky Park, check. Checkerboard lounge, check. Field Museum, check. Lincoln Park Zoo, check. Shedd Aquarium, check. Weiner Circle after midnight, check. Get to know the bartender at the Burwood Tap, check. Lunch at Ed Dibevic's, check. I am forgetting so many now too. For the first few weeks, I did these alone. Every weekend I would go to a unique to Chicago experience. I looked forward to it all week.

Then, some guy from work/the floor asked what I was doing that weekend. I told him. He invited himself along. I sort of woke up 4 or 5 months after moving there and realized I had a bunch of friends and a life. Met my (ex) wife there. My kids were born there. 15 of the best years of my life spent in Chicago after being miserable for the first months. It was like going to sleepaway camp as a little kid. Homesick for the first few days until you realize this is it and then you have the greatest summer ever.

I have only been to Columbus twice. Once to Buckeye Lake for a Grateful Dead concert. (First time Bruce Hornsby played on the same stage!) The other was another bucket list event. OSU v Michigan. Give it time. Only decide it was a mistake after a year. Make a list of all the local things to do. I would actually limit my travels outside of Columbus for a while. You have lived in NYC and the SW and have liked it. You sound like you can adapt to many environments. Become a regular at a bar or diner or coffee shop. Explore. Meet your neighbors. Ask them for recommendations on what to do.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:18 PM on May 1, 2022 [13 favorites]

> I've joined the Meetups and

Good time to get into art classes or an exercise program.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:48 PM on May 1, 2022

You are going to be alright and you have definitely not ruined your life! I don't know anything about Columbus but I'm somebody who spends a lot of time overthinking past decisions and am trying to move past them so hopefully some of my introspection is useful here.

The thing that strikes me about your situation is that if you have to stay in Columbus for a year, that's OK - the thing is, you can put up with anything if it's time-limited (especially if it's just one year!) and I sometimes feel like once you accept them, constraints can actually be useful for quelling existential doubts. No matter what happens, this time next year, you'll have spent one year in Columbus - what's something you can do to make the most of it? Maybe there's a hobby you want to pick up, or a new thing you want to try out. Maybe there's a Columbus Dude out there who'll treat you better than Chicago Guy.

Turn your mandatory year into a bit of an adventurous gap year and you'll have yourself a story to tell yourself (and everybody else) in the future about that crazy year you lived in Columbus. You can control whether this actually turns out to be a mistake and remember - be kind to yourself!
posted by doomsyrup at 3:45 AM on May 2, 2022

You might be experiencing culture shock.

I did a few years as an expat, and your emotional rollercoaster sounds so familiar to me.

First you think the new place will solve your problems and be exciting, and you set up a framework of a life.

Then you arrive, it's not what you expected, and the little things ("ugh this grocery store doesn't have X") stress you out. It's not an adventure anymore. Then you spiral and feel like you've made a huge mistake and set your life on fire.

After three to six months, you adjust and hit an equilibrium, and that's when you can make a rational decision about your new place being a good fit for you.

If you chucked it all today, and went back to the Southwest, you'd experience reverse culture shock, where your old home isn't as perfect as you remember and then you have to readjust.

I know every day feels like forever when you're hurting, but my advice is to put a pin in any major decisions, just for a few months. Let the shock wear off.
posted by champers at 4:00 AM on May 2, 2022 [5 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're feeling overwhelmed and upset. I hope as you settle in, it'll feel better.
I live in Columbus and I love our city. However, late winter/early spring is not the best. It's gray, not as much going on, and has been really rainy. We have lots of fun summer festivals and events, great Metroparks, and more going on. Check out the Arts festival in June and ComFest! Also, there are some great niche communities. I'm a visual artist and have taken lots of classes at the Cultural Arts Center, which is great no matter what your skill level, for being welcoming and having friendly people to meet. There are other good parks & recs stuff, I'm just not as familiar with them. We are (as others have said) within driving distance of some interesting places, too.
Good luck! I hope you enjoy your year (or more!) here. If you have questions, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by ceramicblue at 4:03 AM on May 2, 2022 [4 favorites]

JohnnyGunn’s comment got me thinking. Columbus is kind of like Phoenix in the sense that it’s not one big monolithic metro are; it’s a collection of smaller cities (in Phoenix’s case) or neighborhoods/suburbs (in Columbus’s). Just like your experience in Phoenix would be quite different if you lived near ASU in Tempe vs one of the rougher neighborhoods in Mesa vs Fountain Hills, so your experience in Columbus will depend on whether you’re in Clintonville or German Village or Dublin. I lived in Dublin for two years in my 20s, and hated it even though I love Columbus in general. Likewise, I’ve never been a big fan of Clintonville even though everyone online recommends it as the best part of Columbus. (Good farmers market, though.)

There are some things you could do as a Columbus bucket list (Schmidt’s, OSU football), but personally I think it’d be more likely to do a neighborhood-specific thing. One weekend could be Grandview, one weekend could be Victorian Village, one weekend could be Westerville. It’s possible you’re just in the wrong part of Columbus, and another area might be more amenable.

Actually, as I’m writing this, maybe this could help both of us. You tell me what neighborhoods you’re interested in and/or what you liked in Phoenix, and I could recommend some stuff to do in each. You’d get some stuff to do, and I’d get to distract from my homesickness.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:10 AM on May 2, 2022 [4 favorites]

appending a just remembered item:
  • 'gravity' is ruthless. for my particular case: business is rutheless. for yours, people can be ruthless.
thanks! j_
posted by j_curiouser at 11:38 AM on May 2, 2022

Nthing: Metroparks, farmer's markets. Columbus has an interesting food scene, so if you like dining / taking out, it's a great place to be. IME that's especially true of coffee - my favorite local coffee roasters is Silver Bridge, but most small coffee places roast their own. If you enjoy ice cream, Columbus has a lot to offer as it warms up! Handels, Graeter's, Jeni's, Whit's Frozen Custard...

Since your username is ninalikesimone, would it be fair to guess you enjoy music :)? I was never as plugged into the music scene but I know Gahenna (east side) has a blues and jazz festival in the summertime. Here's a list of Ohio festivals, I'm sure you'll find one or two events worth investigating in person.

Columbus gets a lot of musical acts but Cleveland does too, if you're up for a short overnight trip.

Columbus Metro Library and its outlying branches and partnered libraries are very nice, I would definitely recommend stopping in to get a library card and seeing what they have to offer.
posted by snerson at 1:36 PM on May 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

I live in Dayton but lived in Columbus for (most of) my first 30 years, and still have lots of contacts there, some of whom are very similar age. I LOVE cbus and miss it a lot. Feel free to memail.
posted by dbx at 5:06 PM on May 2, 2022

My husband and I just spent 6 years living in Detroit and we drove to Columbus and Cincinnati every chance we had. We badly regret the time during the pandemic before we moved back to Texas NOT being able to hang out down there.

Try not to beat yourself up. You did something very brave as stated up thread! I think the year marker will be a good amount of time for you to give it a real shot. Lots of suggestions upthread, and not having to immediately leave to go somewhere else gives you some space and time to think about your next move down the road.

After Mr. Getawaysticks and I ended up back in Texas again (early 2021), Texas lost its mind (more than normal) and I was in an absolute panic to sell our new house and move somewhere else. But now we are stuck for a while because of housing prices, so it's a good time for us to hunker down for another year or 3 and figure out what we want to do. If you leave in a year, do it because it was the right move for what you want next.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:20 PM on May 2, 2022

Best answer: After moving to a town she didn't immediately fall in love with, author Melody Warnick studied what makes people love where they live, and she wrote a book called "This Is Where You Belong". It includes really practical activities anyone can follow to deepen their connection and sense of belonging with their place in the world, even if it's temporary. I recommend it!

And best of luck to you. Change is hard.
posted by nadise at 9:57 PM on May 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We all make decisions that turn out to be sub-optimal, but every single decision we make can only be made based on what we know at the time. Don't beat yourself up about a decision you made, at least until you have a chance to explore where that decision leads you, then you can make another one if where it leads you doesn't work.

You can definitely do this and you'll look back in five or ten years and wonder what on earth you were worried about. At about your age, I started life again from scratch as a single parent with no money, nearly no friends and next to no possessions. Five years later and life has never been better. If I can do it, you can do it. Remember - where you live doesn't matter nearly as much as how you live.
posted by dg at 10:11 PM on May 2, 2022 [5 favorites]

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