One of the most frequent questions I get here is, “So do you feel settled?” Honestly, I’m not sure what being settled means. Does it mean we aren’t eating off lawn furniture anymore? That everything’s up on the walls? That it feels like home?
When people see our house, they are usually a little amazed that it does look settled. In fact, we usually get comments about how quickly we’ve done it, how they haven’t finished painting the house they’ve been living in for 10 years, etc.
It never occurred to us not to do it this way, so we started talking about why. When Erik and I move into a new place, we unpack and settle in like we’re gunning for a new HGTV show called “Instant House.” When people share that they still have boxes unpacked after years of living somewhere, I am baffled. Don’t you need that stuff? Usually within a week we’ve unpacked 90% of our boxes or more. That’s just how we roll.
But we do it because we know that feeling settled in our hearts is connected to where we live. When you’ve moved as many times as we have (seven so far in 16 years), your sense of home gets fuzzy. It’s become important to us to create the space around us that says, “You’re welcome here. This is known.”
Many of my expat friends embrace an opposite view – why bother settling in when you’re likely to have to move in 2 years? (FYI we are not planning on moving in 2 years). It does feel like a lot of unnecessary work. But if we had lived by that mentality, we would have spent the last 13 years without ever feeling like our house was our home. No thank you.
I find it spills over into relationships as well. It’s SO easy, when you’ve lived the transient lifestyle of an expat, to learn to guard your heart in relationships. Our kids learned it quickly. After just two years in Singapore, where life was a revolving door, I introduced Ethan to a new boy. His question to me was, “How long is he going to be here?” It can begin to feel safer, better, to choose not to settle in to relationships when the end point seems so close.
Home. Relationships. These are places where we need to settle our hearts, even if it means that just around the corner the roots will be pulled and the emotional dirt will fly. We’re learning to be all in, to dive in deep, to make the most of whatever time we get wherever, with whomever.
Are we settled? We’re trying to be, just as fast as we can.