Hot! Yearning for the Abstract


Now, I don’t know if there’s something in the water, but I’ve noticed that there’s been a recent trend in the travel community that seems to be prompting people to talk about the concept of “Home”.  Legal Nomads wrote about the somewhat surreal feeling of being homesick when you haven’t had a home in years.  Similar to my own post about why I’m settling, Nomadic Matt wrote about how and why his travel lifestyle is coming to an end.  Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic has been struggling with the existential complications of moving home after years on the road.

What about me?  Well, I’ve been dealing with my own version of travel/home-related angst.

A little over a month ago, it looked like Marc was going to get a job out in rural Winchester, VA (near the West Virginia border).  Without going into too much detail, it would have resulted in us being able to afford to rent a house with money to spare, made it easier for me to make the jump to being a full time photographer, and would have improved our quality of life in general.  I like where we live in Alexandria, across the river from Washington DC, but it just isn’t…me.  Marc and I have talked before about eventually moving somewhere cheaper, more rural, less steeped in stupid city bureaucracy, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  I got really revved up over the idea of finally getting to make some of the changes in my life that I had been waiting for.

Well, there have been complications with that job and it’s looking less and less likely that he will be able to take it.  He’s pursuing two strong leads for other jobs in his field, one with a government agency and one with another contractor like the one he already works with, as he is getting really fed up with the antics at his current employer.  It’s great that he has so many opportunities, but I am finding it hard to be happy for him, because all of his current prospects necessitate us staying exactly where we are, keeping the status quo.

There are two things pulling at me these days: fear and yearning.

I say fear because I am really worried that Marc is falling into the trap of just going with the flow and that our existence five years from now will look largely the same to what it does now.  I don’t want that.  Right now we’re kind of floating down the river of life but aren’t particularly engaged, and I really hate that.  I certainly don’t want more of it.

I say yearning because I feel like I am yearning for a life that I can’t even really define.  I’m yearning for something of an abstract melange of life traits that is more like a movie montage than anything else.  The difficulty here is that while I felt I was on my way toward that life, now that we’re not moving, I feel lost.

So, I’m reevaluating.  I’m taking stock of my life and what I do and don’t like about it.  The next step is to figure out what I can do to get rid of the bad and increase the good.

I’ve had a few thoughts about what I could do, but they’re all pretty clearly based in a desire to have a life that is “not this one” without really having a plan on how to turn them into the life I want.  I’ve thought about going back to Korea for a year, or over to China or Vietnam or even Argentina.  I’ve thought about saving up the money to buy an old towable trailer to refurbish and live in while driving around the country, doing photography projects.  I’ve thought about going back home to live with my parents and work and save up money for who knows what.  The issue with all of these plans is that while they’re all tempting, not of one them really get me closer to what I want my life to look like (except, possibly, the trailer plan).  The only thing they have in common is that they’re not the life I’m currently leading.

The additional complication is that I don’t know where Marc fits into all of this.  I have a bad habit of postponing or even shelving my own plans and desires in favor of those of my romantic partner.  It’s a really bad habit and I worry that I’m doing the same thing once again.  How do you reconcile your own plans and desires with those of your partner when they’re rather radically different?  It’s just not something I really ever learned as a child because my parents were always on the same page, on the same path.  So, I don’t know how most people do it.  On one hand, I don’t think that I should have to shelve my own wants and needs, but on the other, I don’t want to be a jerk who says “my way or the highway”.  Frankly, I’m stumped.

This is one of those side effects of living a less than ordinary life that nobody ever talks about, I suspect.

Any advice would be heartily welcomed.


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  1. Very interesting thoughts. I do have a few comments (but keep in mind I’m just a peanut gallery here).

    – We are still in our 20s (not for much longer, but these days that’s still young). You can take time. Yah, anyone could die tomorrow, but there’s nothing wrong with taking 5 years to find the path out of the woods, and don’t disregard discoveries you might make along the way.

    – I love warmer southern cities (California, Florida, Texas) and Adam likes colder cities (New York City or Chicago). I would hate to live in NYC or Chicago. Thus, Adam and I are so lucky we live in DC, which is a great compromise city. Compromise isn’t bad. I get some warmth, 4 lovely seasons and a vibrant city. I mean this as advice because I think there is always something for everyone. Yes, it would be ideal if we were both dating fellow wanderlusty artists, but you can’t always fight the weather. As long as I feel like Adam respects my preferences (and say doesn’t through Chicago at me), there can always be a metaphorical DC to satisfy both people in a relationship.

    – Small changes can help more than you think. Maybe quit subbing and get nervous so you have to dive into photography. You already have a big enough portfolio to start applying. And the NatGeo headquarters happen to be just across the river (hint hint). Maybe move into real DC (which has a more rugid, urban photographic interest than the more bucolic Alexandria). It isn’t easy, but a smart apartment search can find a variety of affordable options (it might include another downsize at worse, but honestly a real city might reboot your creative brain at least until you can really set out to move to your ultimate dream place).

    – In short, your current life might be better than you think with some tweaks. Really think before giving something up (obviously, you are giving good thought; your blog entry is evidence of that) And compromise can be sweet, if both partners are equally giving.

    • The other problem is that as much as I would like to quit subbing and dive into photography (which was my plan when we thought we were going to move to Winchester), it’s simply not financially feasible. As a sub, I earn around $1000/mo. My bills are around $700/mo, just for my rent, phone, fees, etc – that’s not counting groceries, gas, clothing, or anything else. I have no savings. Quitting subbing would require having a backup of at least a few thousand dollars to live off of while I got myself set up, money that I don’t have and currently am unable to save. I can’t take a second job, as even working 40 hours a week as a sub has almost driven me back into the hospital.

    • Well, I’m actually only a year away from no longer being in my 20s, so I’d rather get moving sooner rather than later. I’ve been meandering on “the path” since 2007, and though I have learned a lot about myself, I have not made much of any progress in my professional life and am not really any closer to getting to my goals in my personal life either.

      The issue isn’t really that we want to live in different places. We both want to live in the countryside, but because it’s less of a priority for Marc than it is for me, it’s not something he has really actively been working toward. And really, living somewhere like Winchester IS my compromise. Marc would be perfectly content to live in Arlington/Alexandria the rest of his life. I want to live somewhere in the middle of nowhere like northern Vermont or Montana, or possibly on the road in a trailer. Moving to a house in the countryside while still being close to a city *was* going to be compromise, and now that that’s looking less and less likely, I’m starting to feel frustrated that I’m stuck somewhere that I don’t like much at all. I tolerate it, but more than a couple more years here, or less, could see me packing my bags.

      DC is the last place I want to move. I hate cities, and DC exemplifies the worst in them, to me.