Do you know where you’re going?
Lately I’ve had a hard time answering that question. After 3.5 months of bouncing around as a digital nomad, I find myself struggling to find home.
As many of you are painfully aware, Covid has exacerbated long-standing housing issues, bringing us to a situation of very limited supply and very high demand. The result? Skyrocketing prices and an ultra-competitive climate for getting bids or rental applications accepted.
This has put me, like many of you, in a predicament. Do I try to stay in San Diego County (where I’ve lived for many years) and pay through the nose to either buy or rent? Even if I were willing to stretch my finances to do that, would I be able to land a place before my short-term Airbnb stay here ends?
Or, should I opt for the more daunting option of moving to a different state? While I am open to relocating—and scouting new places to live was part of the motivation behind 3.5 months of digital nomadism—making a huge change brings uncertainty and fear. Will I be happy in Florida (a contender), far from people and places I know? Will there be enough economic opportunity? What if my partner and I regret leaving? Will the housing market in San Diego improve if we wait it out for a year? And can I handle more big changes after the ones I’ve already had in the past two years?
As questions like these swirled through my head and in conversation while hiking, I tripped on a rock, my ankle gave out, and I fell fast toward the earth, luckily catching myself with my hands before more damage could be done. I stood up, stunned, my heart pumping with the sudden adrenaline. What the *&^% just happened? My ankle pulsed its pain at me, a familiar feeling from basketball and other injuries.
While I could immediately tell that it wasn’t a bad sprain—thank goodness—I was still pissed about injuring my ankle and knew it would make most heart-pumping exercise off-limits until it healed (and exercise was an outlet I hoped to rely on to fight stress).
I also felt embarrassed and vulnerable as I brushed the dirt and leaves off and felt the scratches from the fall stinging. It brought to mind times in the past when I had injured my ankle, fought through the pain, and kept going instead of stopping and resting. While that may have seemed tough to me in some ways then, I recognized the folly in pushing it with an injury because it meant a longer recovery. You sometimes have to know when to lose the proverbial battle in order to still win the war.
So, we turned around and headed back to the Airbnb—to ice, elevation, and ibuprofen. A part of me felt defeated—by my ankle, the housing market, life—but the calmer voice in my head said it was acceptance of what is.
A couple of hours later after taking a hot shower, it hit me: I fell because I don’t know where I’m going! Ughhh! Duh!!!
“Maybe you’ll find direction around some corner where it’s been waiting to meet you.”Grateful Dead
As much as we seem to think that we can float through life as disembodied talking heads, the body will tell you on no uncertain terms what the mind cannot. While the mind churns along with all its ruminations and shifting perspectives, the body gives you the wake-up call.
On the hike I couldn’t see my life path clearly in my mind. That disoriented and distracted me, leaving me susceptible to a fall. Upon falling, the visceral, physical reaction of surprise, pain, an elevated heart rate, and the realization that things could have been much worse got my attention. My body was telling me, “Wake up, Carey! Hello? Do you realize you have a body attached to that restless head of yours? Where do you think you’re going?”
So, I’ve woken up. I’ve heard the message.
I am following the valuable advice I was given that when you find yourself wavering, set a reasonable deadline for making a decision. That puts an end date to the uncertainty. Furthermore, dealing with the aftermath of a decision is easier to handle than agonizing over which direction to turn initially.
I have also fallen back on another piece of advice: commit to taking action. Doing something instead of only thinking about what to do is a way to get momentum going in life. Staying stuck or frozen just lets the problems fester.
In my case this translates into the following: I am setting a deadline of early July for being settled in a long-term home (if not a purchase, then at least a one-year rental) somewhere. I am focusing on work goals and exploring options. For instance, I applied for a job in San Diego that, if I get it and still believe it’s a good fit, will help me decide whether to stay.
We are looking at local housing listings, visiting different neighborhoods, and figuring out what is a potential fit given our budget. If nothing groundbreaking happens before the end of April to give us an aha moment, then my partner and I will fly back to Florida to house hunt. That will give us the chance to figure out whether we can really picture living there. Our October visit felt more like vacation mode.
I know I’m not the only one struggling with what to do in the light of circumstances I can’t control that frustrate and upset me. Life is throwing unforeseen obstacles at many people right now. These are unprecedented times. We are being pushed to reevaluate, make hard choices, and move on in ways that seem very scary. I wish it wasn’t like this, but it is.
What we can do is think through our choices, pick the best one, and commit ourselves to it. It’s hard, but we have to trust that we can move forward, adjust, and thrive. There might be setbacks, but we humans are a resilient bunch.
One foot in front of the other. Watch out for the rocks! Ha ha. Don’t worry: you’ll see the rocks and maneuver over them when you have clarity and the peace of mind that comes from accepting the path you’ve chosen.
Note: The painting at the top of the post is “Portrait of the Artist” by Mark Bryce, 1999. Oceanside Museum of Art