One of the phrases that really stood out to me from Chelsea's post about being a nomad was "the intensity of a settled in life."* Though I thoroughly admire Chelsea and her choices, I know I'm no nomad — I've spent my entire life craving a single home and, having emigrated and built something from scratch here, I hold onto it all pretty tight.
Despite this, I recognize the intensity that comes from being settled-in. It never occurred to me as intense, but intense it is. "Settled-in" implies something familiar, comfortable, cosy even (doesn't the photo look cosy?!). But I think being settling-in also adds many layers on top of what's essential and some of those layers become pure distractions. And although these distractions are compelling and motivating, they're also trapping. So we fantasize about simplifying while also greedily wishing for more. And we Kondo with the same zealousness we consumed.
Recently, I had a breakthrough moment when I said no to a freelance job. It would have been a nice little side gig. But I've had side-gigs before and I know how they go; easy money in = easy money out. I thought through all the things I would do with the extra cash and realized it was sort of bottomless and stupid and, if I'm honest, a little deranged.
The world is fierce noisy and I'd be lying completely if I said: I just do what makes me happy, without pressure or comparing myself to others. I'd be lying too if I didn't say I constantly vacillate about where I even want to land on the spectrum of all of this. But after years of feeling like the default position should be "yes", I've started to embrace my ability to say no, to protect myself from feelings that come in the guise of urgent wants but are really just the flavour of the month. It's not that I don't appreciate opportunities or that I'm discarding ambition. But I also know chasing after every one just means I spend my life in chasing mode. No reflection. No moment of contentment about the thing, or what I put into or got out of it.
I often think my 30's have been a gradual deconstruction of the ideas and expectations I had in my 20's. There are still residual ideas that are harder to let go of (perhaps because I really need to do something with them). But for the most part I've let go of notions that my life will land me in superlatives. And I'm content to do most things I love in a vacuum without larger ambition. But I still struggle with sometimes wanting a life that just doesn't match up with that. And I pick at my perfectly lovely life because it sometimes doesn't seem good enough.
It's true: the settled-in life has its own kind of intensity. It collects dust — complex and knotted layers that distract us from what's essential. But it's something I want to work through. I want to learn to be inside of it without becoming knotted up in it. And I want to learn to really hook that balance up with my own choices, big and small. So that I don't feel like it's a trap I walked myself into, blind and unaware.
* I probably took this in a way different direction than Chelsea intended (her post was about her nomadic journey, of course, not my settled-in one), but I wanted to acknowledge how much her post made me reflect and feel, though we are so different :)