Why is 'settling down' so terrifying?
Location Independence, Musings

Why is ‘settling down’ so terrifying?

I honestly never imagined that at the ripe old age of 29 ½ I’d be living such an ‘unsettled’ life.  Then again, I certainly wasn’t envisioning myself as a homeowner by this time, nor did I see miniature versions of myself entering the picture.

A dog, maybe, but kids?  Nah bro.  Not by the age of 30.

Part of me still wonders if I’ll ever have children at all, but that’s neither here nor there.  Having children is only one part of the ‘settling down’ equation, after all, and it’s far from the thing the scares me the most.

So, what exactly is it about this idea of ‘settling down’ that is so troubling?

Is it the possibility of losing my sense of identity as a world traveler?  Is it the fear that I’ll be giving up on my dream so early?  Is it the perpetual fear of missing out that I was so convinced I had outgrown?  Is it guilt for still not speaking any foreign languages fluently?  Or is it the idea of becoming too comfortable with my circumstances–the fear that boredom will eventually set in?

Perhaps I’ll never be able to pinpoint the exact cause of my trepidation.  And trust me, I realize that most of the reasons I just listed are total bullshit.

‘Settling down’ will not stop me from continuing to travel, thus sparing my world traveler status.

‘Settling down’ will not change the fact that I’m still living the location independent lifestyle I’ve worked so hard to build, thus sparing my dreams from an untimely death.

‘Settling down’ won’t really stoke my FOMO, because I realized years ago that I can’t possibly see the whole world in one lifetime anyway, and that’s okay–and the idea of traveling forever actually sounds pretty awful to me.

‘Settling down’ hardly means I can’t continue to study and improve my language skills.  Puh-leaze.

‘Settling down’ certainly doesn’t equate to boredom or a lack of personal growth and challenges.  Those things are my responsibility, anyway, and they can and should be pursued at all times.

I guess the one thing I am certain of at this point in time is that I’m equal parts drawn to and repulsed by the idea of ‘settling down.’  Whatever that even means.

When I try to imagine my place–you know, the city where I can see myself building a life that I’m excited by and proud of–my mind draws a blank.

My place doesn’t seem to exist yet–at least, not in my imagination.

The cities I know and love each have their merits and drawbacks.  I start to imagine a life in each one, but the image quickly becomes foggy and obscured.

This is generally the nature of the future–foggy and obscured–but suddenly it’s causing me to doubt myself in ways I’ve never doubted myself before.  My heart, which I have almost exclusively relied upon in the past to lead me to where I needed to be, doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants.

There is a lack of conviction, an unreliable intuition.

And while I’m fully aware that any decision I make will be impermanent, I still worry that I’ll somehow make the wrong choice.

I could just buckle down and make the damn decision, committing, for instance, to live in one city for a year’s time.

This is as close to ‘settling down’ as I get these days.

I would live with the consequences of my decision and do everything in my power to make the most of that time.  And then I remember that I tried such a strategy not all that long ago.

I tried with everything I had to feel ‘settled’ in Medellín, Colombia.  I had every intention of sticking it out for a full year, if not longer.  Of really making it my own.

Four months later, I was gone.

Granted, that was a time in my life that I’m not particularly fond of or proud to look back on.  There were plenty of underlying factors that contributed to my fleeing the city, and I do, at the very least, feel like I’m in a place of greater inner peace than I was then.

But.

There’s always a but.

Things change.  Opportunities arise.  And I fear that I will forever be pulled in the direction of elsewhere, no matter how firm I am in my conviction of ‘settling down.’

On top of all of this rests another unsettling dichotomy of desires: My attraction and simultaneous aversion to material things.

I own what I need to travel, and that, for many years, has been more than enough.  But now, and rather suddenly, I feel an urge to “nest,” if you will.  I want things.  I want to lay my head on a bed that’s my own.  I want to buy a nice mug that expresses my personality and matches my design aesthetic.  I want to create a space that’s mine.  I want succulents.

I do have a personality, you know.  And sometimes I think it’s bigger than what fits in a backpack.

On the other hand, having more stuff feels suffocating.  Anything I buy now will have to be relocated to wherever I ‘settle’ eventually.  It will have to be looked after in the meantime.  Stuff is a burden–that’s a fact.

And who needs to waste money on a storage unit every month?  Not this girl.  Especially not when there’s no clear end in sight.

So, ‘settling down’ feels terrifying for a lot of reasons, as it turns out.  Are they good ones?  Not really.  Life is uncertain by nature, and it always will be.  So why can’t I just embrace that, already?

Every philosopher and self-help guru warns against time traveling–that is, thinking too much about the past or future rather than living in the present moment.

And they’re right.  The only thing we can control is now.  Our thoughts and our actions in this very moment.

As I drift ‘unsettled,’ every day closer to the age of 30, I know things will work out the way they are supposed to.  Whether that means I’ll be ‘settling down’ or not is irrelevant.

Gentle reminders of this fact are usually all I need to come back down to earth, to the here and now.  Things are working in good time, and unfolding as they should.

The Universe is in control, and all is as it should be.

But did I mention…patience has never been my strong suit?

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