Eric and I are moving in a couple months, a fact that has consumed my life for the past few weeks. While I wanted to write about the good news — We’re moving! It’s exciting! There are things to Pin!! — I realized that there is a lot more to this change than just the fact that we found a new place and are planning to move. Whenever I’ve heard people talk about their apartment and house hunting/buying, mostly via Facebook or blogs, I have assumed that they are simply just talking about their homes. But I’m seeing now that the challenges associated with finding a place to live can have very little do with real estate and everything to do with bigger issues: values, pride, fear of commitment. For me anyway, the question of where we would live has been a microcosm of all the bigger questions I have about my life and my life as part of a couple. It will probably take me a few days to tell the whole story, but I think it’s a story worth telling.
As soon as Eric and I got engaged, the first question most people asked regarding a wedding was, “So where will you get married? Kansas or Michigan? Or Houston?”
When people ask this, all I can think is, “Where will we get married? But…where will we live????”
Because that is the question that has been on my mind for nearly a year now.
Dilemma #1: Houston vs. The Rest of the World
When I moved to Houston, I wasn’t really thinking about whether or not I wanted to stay in Texas. I had bigger things to think about — like, you know, whether I would want to stay with Eric. Houston felt temporary; it was an extended vacation, a lark, a place to go because I couldn’t think of a very good reason not to. But then last summer, a few months after we moved in together, we both went to the hospital and had no one to take care of us and it really scared me. That’s when it hit me that this was real and we were going to build a life together…and we were building it all alone, a million miles from almost everyone.
So I asked the question: where will we live?
Eric had pretty much planned to stay in Houston since he moved down here. He likes Houston, he has friends, and he has a job he loved at the company he’d always wanted to work for. Even though he doesn’t see his family often, he has enough of the things he needed to be happy here. But while I like Houston a lot, I just didn’t feel like everything I needed was here. I didn’t have family and friends here, or a dream job. The problem, though, was that I don’t know where all those things are. I don’t desperately want to go home to Michigan, where my family is, or to Chicago, where most of my friends are. Neither of us really want to go to Wichita, where his family is. I don’t want to go back to New York. Because I want to be all of these places, I can’t really justify moving to any one of them. So…where then?
As Eric and I tried to figure this out, we quickly realized that he was very much an object at rest planning to stay at rest here in Texas. Unless a job or family situation changed in a major way, he wasn’t going to just give up his life here. At the same time, I felt like an object in motion, and I’ve been in motion for the past nine years since I graduated from high school. (Three colleges, two big cites, so many apartments…) Neither of us could figure out what the force was going to be that would move or stop one of us, either now, or down the line. Eric didn’t want to go, and I couldn’t blame him. I wasn’t really sure I wanted or needed to go. I just wanted the option to be able to go. And if we were in this for the long haul, and he was in Texas for the long haul, I knew where that left me. When it comes down to it, I was just crippled with a good, old-fashioned fear of commitment. As I would realize again and again in the months to come, committing to a person didn’t scare me, but committing to a place did.
I told Eric that to be happy in Houston, and OK with the things that meant giving up, I needed at least two out of three things to be really good: my job, my location, or my relationships (with family, friends, him, etc). He had three out of three. I had…fractions of each, and I needed help having more. In the end, our compromise was that I would try my best to be happy here for the next several months, to see if I would be able to envision my life here with a bit more effort; meanwhile, he’d do everything he could to help me be happier here. That is why I’ve been so focused on writing more and to making new friends. While putting myself out there in terms of making new friends and taking advantage of the things Houston has to offer has fallen mostly on my shoulders, Eric has been making my life easier so I can focus on my career and my job satisfaction down here. He’s been supporting me in so many ways, through everything from doing extra chores and making more dinners so I have time to write to helping me stay motivated when I want to give up to understanding that I’m going to be a little busy, overwhelmed, and cranky at times.
It honestly seemed like a long shot at the time (like, him doing more chores is really going to change everything?! Right…) but…it actually worked! Being satisfied creatively was the biggest part; the friendships are still coming and they are icing on the cake. But it wasn’t very long before I knew that I could be happy down here. It was a huge deal for both us.
But…there were still a lot more compromises that needed to be made.