I still think that Southampton is my home. I’ve lived in London for four years this time around and in a couple of weeks, all being well, will own a flat. I will have a home of my own but it still doesn’t feel like home.
Maybe when I’ve painted the walls, purchased the oven, chosen which tea towels to buy and the rail to hang them on I may achieve a more marked sense of rootedness. Maybe when I know my neighbour’s names, taken my place in the residents management company, felt the first mortgage payments leave my account. Maybe then it will feel like home.
The biggest hurdle to buying a flat has not been the money, or the bureaucracy – although I know more about double glazing regulations than I ever thought possible – it has been surrendering transience. I could still just about bail, and I’ve thought about it once or twice. I could pull out of the process, count my losses and move on. I would then have the flexibility and the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted.
Because I have taken certain choices my life is now constrained. The other day in the opening post to this series I referred to people getting married at a relatively young age and that this choice, and even more so having kids, restricts your ability to do whatever it is that takes your fancy. One of the causes of the quarter life crisis is the delaying of taking decisions that tie you down and limit your flexibility.
Freedom is exalted, the ability to do what you want and when you want it is lifted high, and even choices taken for your own interest that limit this freedom are somewhat frowned upon. Next month if I wanted to become a cattle drover in the Australian outback it would be harder. There are now things that I cannot do. Andy Crouch talks about the horizons of the possible, that by doing things we not only make some things possible we make other things impossible. It is my hope that by investing, in a personal rather than financial sense, I will open up possibilities even though I close others off.
I shuddered for too long at the prospect of putting down roots because I wanted to be free to move on at a moments notice. In some not so hidden recess of my mind I hoped I wouldn’t be living in London forever. I may still not, but I am for now, and the reluctance to accept that with any certitude meant I lived on the verge of the potential for change.
But home is not just about bricks and mortar. It is about commitment and it is about community. I didn’t have to buy a flat to settle down, but it’s something that forces me into that mindset. Maybe transience is here to stay, but that shouldn’t prevent commitment, rather it should make commitment even more urgent.
How would you live if you knew you were where you would be for the rest of your life? What do you need to change about your habits, routines and commitments? Are you afraid of permanence?