After several weeks worth of Modern Love columns that either didn’t speak to me or this website or were thoroughly boring, this week finally brought an essay in the best of ML and Anti-Girlfriend tradition.
In “A Place to Lay My Heart,” Elizabeth Eaves (author of Wanderlust) talks about how she managed to settle down and into a lasting relationship after years nomadically spent as a travel writer. She observes many things that apply to those of us with fewer stamps on our passports.
After a broken engagement post-college, she began to wander:
During my traveling years I wasn’t exactly running from relationships, but the pleasure I took in moving dovetailed neatly with my fear of them. My unhappy years of domesticity in Seattle had left a scar. I was suspicious of myself, never quite sure that I could stay committed…Part of my impulse to travel came from never wanting to commit to just one thing; I had created a life that afforded me the illusion of endless choice. I could work for this freelance employer or that one; choose spontaneously to live in Hong Kong or the Outback. The “or” was what mattered. The “or” is what I was giving up by settling down.
As I mentioned in my 2011 wrap up post, like Eaves, I have played a big role in my remaining single throughout my 20s. It hasn’t been the rejection of others (that played only a slim role) but the fact that I arranged my life around a different set of priorities. Having a stable relationship was not paramount. Writing and galavanting about–around the city to various dance practices and at times, around the world–was all I thought about.
And like Eaves, I favored long distance relationships, or at least the possibility of them. I often would meet a guy who was in town for a week or two or a month even and think that there was a chance that this could extend beyond the visit or vacation. I think I did this was because though I wanted to find myself connected to another person, I wasn’t yet ready for all of the responsibilities inherent in making something work when you live near the other–the frequent meetings, doing chores together, having to be around all of the time. I liked the idea of another person but I wasn’t ready to make room and time for him in my life.
My realization that I would like to settle down, at least in some aspects of my life, has come at a younger age than it did for Eaves. Yet like her, I felt the same anxiety in taking steps to making that happen–from signing a lease on my own apartment to taking jobs and positions that require me to show up each and every day, and not just for a couple of hours here and there. I’ve also started thinking beyond the first throes of romance and excitement and thinking about what a settled future with another person might look like. Sometimes these thoughts freak me out and I have to mentally look away as though I was watching a horror movie and the scary moment had just arrived. But more often, I can stare calmly at this future without freaking out and wish it for myself.