In 2022, I settled.
I spent the year building a life in Austin, Texas. I put nomadic life on pause. No more Airbnbs. Instead, I lived in the same apartment, in the same neighborhood, in the same zip code. For the first time in years, all my possessions were in the same physical place. It felt grounding, it felt good.
When you move somewhere new after the age of 25, finding a social community doesn’t just happen. And the older you get, the tougher it can be. People have more obligations and less time for new friends. I’m not a novice when it comes to moving, and I knew that packing up was the easy part.
But making new friends in a city full of strangers turned out to be one of those rare life experiences: Not as challenging as I thought.
Saying yes to almost every invitation helped. Asking people to introduce me to friends and colleagues was a good move. Following up (in some cases, many times) helped. Connecting with “old” friends who happened to move here also helped.
By the time my one-year Austin-versary hit, I had met enough people to invite to a party that I co-hosted with a new friend. I was surrounded by wonderful people that night, including a friend who was in town for the weekend.
Over the last year, I’ve also slowly found my go-to spots for coworking (Createscape), takeout sushi (Mikado Ryotei), and hiking (Walnut Creek). A place cannot feel like home until you know the important stuff like where to go for a glass of wine with a side of bartender philosophy (Drinkwell). Or the best bagel (need help on that).
Though I’m still finding my way here, I feel settled.
But I don’t feel rooted. I like where I am, but it’s not a place to which I have a deep connection. None of my closest friends live within driving distance. I miss living close to family. Technology is helpful (WhatsApp) but doesn’t solve the issue.
This year, I made a romantic connection that is so much of what I was seeking and yet not exactly what I pictured. However, a fresh partnership cannot remove the loneliness of living apart from people who have known you for a lifetime.
The wonderful thing about my life is that I have roots in many places (I have friends around the world). The challenging thing about my life is that I have roots in many places (my immediate family members are between a three- and 18-hour plane ride away).
And yet, I’ve spent my adult life trying to reconcile what it means to have roots in many places. Subconsciously, I think I’ve been striving to feel rooted in a certain place. Maybe being rooted is not the goal for me. Maybe it can’t be for anyone who spent their formative years in a different country. And maybe feeling settled is its own gift.
I’m thinking about that as I enter the new year. The year I turn 40. I embrace beginnings and fresh starts. I try to appropriately acknowledge the closing of a chapter. The start of this decade feels like a mix of both. I won’t begin to guess at the lessons that are yet to unfold or the questions that this next year will bring.
But I am here for them.
Thank you, 2022. Onward 2023.