A few years ago I started writing a piece called “Unsettled.” I think I started writing it shortly after I graduated from college, after surveying the boxes of items from those four years that dwelt in my basement, wondering when I’d ever settle down and unpack them again. Those boxes were a reminder of how much moving I had done in the last four years, with all the back-and-forth between college and home. They were reminders of how unsettled I was and how I ached for a sense of stability, a place where I could unpack those boxes for good. I always left them packed up and ready to move in case such an opportunity came. But the first year after graduation was filled with nothing but temporary jobs. Those boxes didn’t go anywhere.
I didn’t finish that piece because I never quite knew how to make that metaphor any deeper, or how to stretch it into a few pages or into a blog post. I thought about returning to it several times; whenever I opened up my document browser on my computer, I would see that piece and wonder if I should revisit it. But it never felt right. I think moving to West Virginia was a sort of nail in the coffin for that piece, because I didn’t take those boxes with me. I had to live a little bit lighter in West Virginia, and those boxes had a lot of things that I definitely did not need. I was only supposed to stay in West Virginia for a year, but one year became two. I did feel settled in West Virginia. But it was an incomplete sort of settled. I knew when I would be leaving. I’d only feel settled for so long. Still, having a place to call home for longer than a few months was nice.
It’s timely that I remember that piece because it’s been on my heart for the past few weeks to reflect on and write about being settled. I’ve been living in the Cincinnati area and at my new job for a little more than a month now, and life has been filled with all kinds of things I’ve never encountered before. I have a job that offers a salary and benefits, and it has a title that doesn’t include the words “temporary” or “intern.” I could very well stay in the position for 3-5 years or more, if I feel it is a good fit. I’m living in a house that I might stay in for a few months or a few years. I’m saving up money for my own bedroom furniture and possibly décor that isn’t posters and string lights. I have a new permanent address that I’m going to have to start using. Eventually I’m going to get an Ohio drivers license. I’m attending mass at a parish that I will probably become a registered member of, which means I’ll need to start tithing. It’s all very new.
And it’s all a little strange, if I’m being honest. I haven’t had a sense of permanence in my life in quite awhile, and I’ve kind of gotten used to that. I often catch myself reflecting on how much I’ve moved around in the past few years: I went to Iowa for college, back home to Illinois a few months after graduating, to Wisconsin for a job for a few months, to West Virginia for two years (and those two years included thousands of miles of work-related travel), back to Illinois for a month, and now to Ohio. I’ve lived in a lot of a different places in the last three years, and it’s strange to think that I’m in a place and a job for an indefinite amount of time.
Maybe that’s why I haven’t been in any rush to iron out some of the details that I knew this kind of shift would entail–finding a mechanic and a doctor and a dentist, registering at a parish, buying an actual bed and desk, getting mature decor for my room like what I’ve been stockpiling on Pinterest. It’s like I’m still in that “I’m going to be out of here in a few months” mindset; it hasn’t quiet hit me that I’m settled, even though it’s something that I’ve longed for and that’s been eluding me for so long.
I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a free spirit or a nomad. I’ve never liked being in one place for too long and have never wanted to be bound by traditional expectations when it comes to careers and callings. It’s not that I advocate for those wishy-washy quotes that say that “your 20s are your selfish years” or those lists of “things you have to do before you get married/start a family” (which I’m not sure is my calling anyway). It’s not that I’m afraid of commitment. I’ve just never been one to plan long-term. I’m flexible and not super future-oriented and willing to go wherever I’m led. So it’s a bit weird to think that I’ve arrived at a place where I could be long-term. As nice as it is to be able to unpack and spread out and start building a life, I think that’s going to take some time and some getting used to. And I think my wandering ways are going to find new avenues; I’m already looking ahead to my next trip to West Virginia, thinking about possible vacation destinations, and even wondering if I want to take a little day trip this weekend. I’m still a wanderer. But a settled wanderer, with a home base, with an anchor, with a long-term role to fill, and with a more secure sense of who I am and the kind of woman I want to be. All my wanderings will be tethered to that identity, not my identity to my wanderings.
It’s a shift. It’s strange. But it feels good. I think I’m ready for it..