Building a Life

In about a week, I’ll begin building a new life for myself.

I’ve done it many times now.  Every nomadic move opened the door to a new life, a new home, a new community.  Even the temporary moves and three-month rotations brought people and experiences into my life that made those places a unique time and place.  My husband and I always made a point to throw ourselves into whatever community we were in, no matter how short our stay there.  We never let ourselves say “Why bother?  We’re moving away soon anyway.”  Instead, we made friends and found surrogate families.  We explored the sights and claimed our favorite haunts.  We built routines specific to that location and that stage of our lives.  Whether we lived in a place for over a year or just three months, we deliberately built a life for ourselves.

All the locations we've built lives in the last four years in one Google map...

All the locations we’ve called home in the last four years in one Google map…

We signed our next apartment lease this week – a year lease!  It says something that I’m excited about that.  No, this isn’t our final stop.  I don’t think I’m quite ready to remove the “nomadic” moniker from my blog tagline yet.  Maybe after the residency is over, but even then, who knows.  I’ve learned I can’t plan my life out more than a year in advance.  But still.  I get a year to build a life this time!  I’m excited about this.

We usually begin by joining a church.  Yes, this is important for faith-based reasons, but we’ve also discovered many welcoming, ready-made communities waiting for us within the walls of the church.  We’ve found purpose and belonging, friends and surrogate families through the church.  We also build life through our respective jobs, connecting with colleagues outside the workplace through mutual sight-seeing and restaurant-exploring.  As a couple, we inevitably find our favorite Starbucks, Panera, Chipotle, and chinese food place.  We explore the dog parks and walking trails.  We find a place to work out.  We develop habits and patterns that give rhythm and familiarity to life.

Obviously, this pattern varies a bit depending on the location, but that’s the point, isn’t it?  We build a life based on where we are, not on where we want to be somewhere down the road.

I spend a lot of time on this blog encouraging teens to keep a clear focus for their futures.  My last post focused on the idea of finding what you want to do when you grow up.  However, right now I’m speaking to the new high school graduates preparing to begin their first year at a new college or university.  I read your blogs.  I see your excitement, anticipation, and nerves.  While I’m writing about preparing for your future career, you’re wondering what on earth your life is going to be like in just a few weeks!  I don’t know what my life will be like in a few weeks, either, but I have learned a few things about building a life over the years.

You can either be passive or active participants in building life around yourself.  I suggest being active; you’ll have more say and it’s much more fun!  You will be surrounded by peers ready for friendship.  Strike up conversations before or after class.  Join a random table in the cafeteria.  If you live in the dorm, introduce yourself to other people who live in your hall.  Before I actually lived with the girl who ultimately became my best friend and roommate for three years, she came to my dorm, climbed up to my bunk, and we had our first long conversation about country music and CS Lewis.  Find an activity you like and join it.  I auditioned for a play within the first few weeks of freshman year, effectively entrenching myself in the world that would lead to life lessons and life-long friends.  Take advantage of the world you’re about to enter, and if you try something and don’t like it, try something else!

Don’t get me wrong.  The whole point of college is the education that should lead to a career.  Don’t lose sight of that.  If you just see college as a big party… well… that’s one expensive party.  However, college is prime life-building time, too.  As I build my life in my new apartment, I look forward to reading how you build your new lives, too!

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3 thoughts on “Building a Life

  1. This is wonderful! Thank you for sharing! Though my home is based in the same place, I’m getting ready to get back on the road in the coming weeks. I spend so much time away from my home base that it sometimes drives me crazy. What I love is how welcoming so many communities are. I have surrogate families all over now and I love it! Granted, I’m in these places to work but the personal connections are something I care about deeply.
    I look forward to reading more of your adventures as I set out on mine!

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  2. Nomadic life style. Definitely something some people envoy, something some people can’t handle. I love your outlook on life though. I know quite a few people that would be stressed out from the fact that they can’t build a life starting from foundation all the way to the top. To live in the moment and to build our life for the moment rather than sulking about what could be or what would be if it the time frame was longer; what a great mindset. As much as we are built to adapt it seems to be something we have trouble with since we as a society has moved away from a nomadic life style but I’m glad you find enjoyment as well as fulfillment in the societies you plug yourself into. Its amazing that you seek out community and live with the community during your times at your homes.
    I’ve always built my life along the lines of being wary of change or confronting change, but as i’ve grown older I came to realize that life throws you in several different directions at unexpected times. I had to adjust and I am where I am now because i’ve embraced change and actively sought out change in certain aspects of my life

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  3. Until recently, I could say with proud that I had been living at the same place for three years, a personal record breaking, even counting the years I was a toddler. Moving out is the worst thing in the world. I know I could never be nomadic.

    I loled at the comment about college being an expensive party. Sadly, we all knew people who were there for that exact reason, and these are the people we never heard again after college. Having a good time there is one thing, but that must not be the goal, as you say.

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