When are you coming back?
Since the onset of COVID my wife and I have been living nomadically. We’ve holed up with family, retreated to the woods and mountains, visited friends, and - once borders started opening - travelled abroad.
Friends, family, and coworkers are constantly asking us with concern “But when are you coming back?”
The truth is that we don’t have a place to come back to. NYC was the home to our 20s. Our friends also silently packed up and scattered elsewhere with little ceremony. I recognize the irony in saying that there’s nothing left for us in one of - if not the - cultural capital of the world, a city of 8 million-plus people, but it sure feels that way. Without a community or strong roots there, it doesn’t feel like home.
And we’re no longer tethered to our desks. Information workers don’t work from offices or homes anywhere, but online. You don’t have be fully strapped into the great online game (opens in a new tab) to be working from the metaverse already, via collaboration software. My wife’s team is mostly in London and mine is split between NYC and Moscow. Both are widely distributed beyond that. So why pick any one of those places? Why commute to an office so that we can fight for phone booths to call into zoom meetings? Why not be, well, anywhere?
We’ve also tried to be intentional about living our values. Exploration has always been at the top of a short list. Pre COVID we loved to travel. Sometimes to far flung places across the globe and other times just to try another contender for “best pizza in the tri-state area”. We adapted this to pandemic times by climbing mountains and exploring nature.
Flexibility is also important to us. During peak pandemic it was necessary to stay agile and adapt quickly. It’s still important to us as we seek to explore, grow, and figure out the next phase of our lives. But now flexibility is in service of experimentation. With so many options how do you choose? Well, by trying things on. We’ve always had romantic hopes about “living in nature” or “living abroad”, among others. We’ve already gotten to try both for several months at a time. This new weird world we find ourselves in also provides novel opportunities if you look at it right.
So while we’re not sure what our optimal stopping solution (opens in a new tab) is, we’ll continue to gather data points and feelings until we feel more strongly about making more permanent decisions. We’ve learned that forcing decisions prematurely makes for worse outcomes and regrets. Certain decisions have limited windows. But it’s important to challenge whether those expiration dates are real or not. Sometimes it’s just social pressure or uneasiness with ambiguity making them seem more urgent than they are.
Good-natured people will always question what you are doing if it deviates from their own view point. Behaving outside the status quo will always raise eyebrows or trigger anxiety in others. It takes guts and effort to live by your own compass, but is always worth it. Surprisingly, it’s often a lot less effort than you think.
So, I will reply with a smile and a wink “probably eventually, but not immediately. Maybe sooner, maybe never.”
The unknown isn’t always a problem to solve. It can be an exciting place to live, for the right person at the right time. For us, playing to keep the game alive is a lot more rewarding than closing it out.