As I close in on the end of college and start making plans for an adulthood that includes my boyfriend, I find myself with a case of cold feet. We’re talking about buying a house together, and I’m surprised that 23-year-old-me looks like she’s going straight from college into settling down. It’s a much straighter path than I expected to take!
Am I crazy for not cramming in as much sex, drugs, and travel before I start owing money to the bank and dropping sprogs? Can I still have an exciting, quirky life with all that grown up stuff to deal with?
Thank you in advance, I am really struggling with this.
I look forward to hearing your ever inspiring, educated and friendly responses.
Peace out! – Sinéad
Hi Sinéad! Okay, I think I got this.
No, you are not crazy. Yes, you can still have an exciting life. Marching to the beat of your own drum doesn’t equate to running wild down the streets and throwing all caution to the wind. Being a grown up is about committing to things you want to accomplish, and carrying out the responsibilities required to work toward your goals.
I'm a grad student, and I currently live in a flat with another grad student, who's been living here over a year. The problem is,... Read more
Sometimes goals come into conflict with each other, and you have to weigh how to handle that friction. For instance, it may take some work to be an adventurous, world-traveling offbeat mama, or to pull off living in a home that floats or uses no paper goods — and I mean NO PAPER GOODS. It will usually take a little noodling to figure out how to make your life work in conjunction with your goals, but that’s kind of exactly what an offbeatling is: someone who places non-traditional values among her highest priorities.
Not every life plan will be compatible, but many goals just take some special accommodations to work together. You might literally want to live in a hole in the ground, AND to be the next CEO of your company; these things aren’t mutually exclusive, but you’re definitely going to be feeling out your own way in the world. It will probably take more work for you than it does for most people to fit your values and goals together.
So, what are your goals? You’re approaching a big life change, so this is a good time to review them if you haven’t already. What do you want to have done in six months? How about in five years? If your current ambitions go as well as you possibly hope they can (and hope high!), where will you be then?
You might find reason in these goals to plant yourself. For example, I am still kind of surprised we own a home. My partner and I decided to to buy a house fairly suddenly, after realizing we needed a permanent homebase where we could work on projects.
SHORT VERSION: You can totally do this. Your offbeat life can absolutely shadow the path of a “traditional” one. Just keep your goals and priorities in mind, for your own sake!
Comments on Growing up: Can I settle down and be offbeat at the same time?
IMO, the one thing to avoid is ‘milestone thinking.’ Like, “We graduated college so now we’ll move in together/buy a house together. We live together so now we’ll get married. We got married so now we’ll have a baby.” And the reverse – “We can’t have a kid until we get married/live together.”
If you’re uncomfortable about buying a house with your boyfriend (and there are many reasons why that’s understandable! Buying a house is a big commitment!), that’s OK! It doesn’t mean you don’t love your boyfriend (my spouse and I lived in rentals for several years after our marriage). There’s no ‘track’ that you’d miss out on. Conversely, buying a house may make the most financial, personal, and joint sense right now, in which case that’s all you’re doing – buying a house.
I met my (now) husband about a year after college & he was still in undergrad. I’m currently 43. We dated for a few years while finished school & I went to grad school, then moved in together. We’ve been together 20 years, married 12, bought a house 10 years ago. Together, we’ve set foot on all 7 continents (incld. Antarctica!), we’ve had huge parties (incld. a locally legendary Halloween party), he’s had a couple bands, I’ve been involved in various historical reenactment groups, he started his own business, I’ve worked at newspapers & startups — basically, we’re living our dreams & being “settled down” together hasn’t stopped us one bit.
Now, we decided not to have a kid, & that definitely helped us dedicate ourselves to our creative lives. But some ppl can do everything too. Just bec. you find a partner early & make a home young, that doesn’t mean you have to have a baby young. Use your partnership & home as the base for all your wild & crazy projects & goals. Get going on whatever floats your boat — it’s a little easier to, say, start a business or do messy art when you have a garage to do it in.
Then take your time if you want to spawn or suchlike. Get a move on with the sex, drugs, & travel now. The house & partner can be part of that plan, not a hindrance.
My experience isn’t necessarily positive, so let me offer some of my armchair psychiatry: if you have cold feet about it, examine that. What are the things you think you’ll miss out on if you do buy a house, and why are they important to you? Are they things you’re likely to do if you pass on the house? Are you focusing your looming sense of dread in the right place–is this actually ABOUT the house, or is it about something else?
For me, it wasn’t about the house. It was about my relationship, my lack of drive, my career, myself.
But maybe all you need is to hear the Offbeat Home refrain:
You CAN plant roots and live a life that’s entirely your own. You CAN have sex and drugs and rock n’ roll while maintaining a place to call home. You CAN be yourself with collateral. You CAN do it!
Haha this is funny to me, since we are very offbeat and travel a very seemingly offbeat-lite path (married, house, babies). You can be whatever you want wherever you want. You define YOU, not your house, not your apartment, not any other person.
You can ABSOLUTELY be offbeat and “settled down” at the same time. It helps if you think of it as “setting up base camp” instead of “settling down.”
Oh, this is so familiar. We bought our house two years into our relationship, when I was 23. My partner was 28. He was buying the house because the money was available, and he’d long wanted to be a homeowner. I was going in on it with him because I HATE renting, and because we were working on committing to a life together, and (at the time — we’ve since gotten married) this was the most tangible version of that commitment available. I worried about the same things you were worried about, especially because I wasn’t wild in college, and when my partner & I got serious, I was still in the early phases of figuring out my sexuality. Like, ack! Here I am, buying a house with a man, deliberately choosing a heteronormative, socially-normative lifestyle before I’ve even had a chance to fully process being queer.
It’s been four years, and so far, it’s going really well. We blend the offbeat aspects of our lives (unschooling polyamorous queer hippie-like DIYers who rarely drive) with the normal parts (married homeowners in a heterosexual relationship where the female partner stays at home with the baby). For me, having the solid base of homeownership helped me feel like I could go and do the weird things.
I don’t know if that will be true for you, but I wanted to emphasize that it is definitely possible. If you want to be a homeowner, be a homeowner! Live the life you want to live.
Maybe this is just my take, and maybe I’m not “offbeat enough,” but — it seems to me that part of being offbeat is being AUTHENTICALLY you. Whatever that means. It means putting your life together they way you want, choosing bits and pieces that make up you, not choosing an already put-together lifestyle or set of expectations. Maybe one offbeat person has liberal political views but dresses conservatively; maybe another person is covered in tattoos but has very traditional ideas about family. Why not? If that’s who those people really are authentically.
That being said — you should really think about a big step like home ownership — is it what you really want, but you feel like you “shouldn’t” because it doesn’t fit with an image that you have? Or maybe it isn’t what you really want, and that’s why you have cold feet. There are a lot of possibilities, but I think you have to figure out what you really want to do, and then do it, if it’s feasible.To me, home ownership would definitely offer some security and stability, but I do worry about it tying me down (fortunately or unfortunately, it’s not a financial possibility, so I don’t need to think about it too much).
I encourage Sinéad and her boyfriend to work together with two kinds of advisors: 1) a licensed marriage & family therapist who can help them structure their living situation for success, and 2) a financial coach who can help them anticipate what’s ahead and problem solve complex financial issues. Sinéad may even have access to a premarital education class and financial coaching free of charge in her area. Call the United Way Helpline at 2-1-1 to find local resources to help you set up yourself up for success rather than disappointment.
There are so many little bits and pieces to that “I’m settling down” notion and I think it’s much healthier to dismiss that big label and look at all the other bits piece by piece. I’m having a lot of those conversations with myself at the moment, I’m 22 and will be out of law school in two years. I’ve been dating my man-friend for three, living together for two (rental). I’ve had friends go all “noooo what about the travel, sex and drugs you still have to do!” as though BAM! at any moment I’ll be a conservative solicitor married with two kids and a labrador in a big house with one of those gates that doesn’t open without somebody answering the intercom system (and hey if that’s your deal, you go girl!). In reality, the only thing “settled” is that right now I feel I know that my partner is the person I would dearly like to spend the rest of my life with. You can be an adult and do adult things without pressing an irreversible settle down button, just pass things through your mind and your heart and if you want them because they feel like a real good thing to do as opposed to the real next thing to do, go for it and remember you’ll always be the person you were at the beginning-make sure it’s you defining your new circumstances and not the other way around.
Zan, it’s like you have read my mind. In my irrational thoughts, as soon as I picture myself signing a mortgage agreement it’s like I put the pen down and bam, beige walls, sensible shoes and being offended by swear words. Vom. I’m glad I’m not alone.
“You can be an adult and do adult things without pressing an irreversible settle down button” THIS! this is what I needed to hear. I think I’m going to print and frame it.
Thank you 🙂
Glad to hear it! If you buy a house you can choose any wall colour you desire! I have considered buying a house solely for that reason, so maybe it’s a good thing we have no money 🙂
all the very best with whatever you decide x
I have this too! My biggest concern is not that it is a ‘WHAM’ scenario, but more of a sliding scale… like one step will lead to another and suddenly I wake up and find myself in suburbia with the dog &kid & soccer practice :S. My only way of dealing with this so far is examining each step of the way, but I don’t know whether it will be effective.
Wow! I am overwhelmed by all the positive and encouraging comments on my silly little question. Thank you all so so much. I think my main issue here isn’t that I *don’t want* to buy a house and have babies and all that jazz, it’s more that I never truly expected for it to happen so early!
I’ve known my (very ‘on-beat’) boy for 8 years now, been in a relationship for 3, and lived together casually in student places etc for 1 so I know he’s the one for me and setting up base camp with him is what I want. I’m also so, so high on babycrack right now since a friend of mine had her own, and I can’t wait to get married. I guess I just thought I’d have more time to experiment with travel, my sexuality and, well, life, beforehand.
Most people do all that at uni but my previous, somewhat emotionally abusive and controlling relationship dashed all hopes of that for me so I never really got the chance to go crazy as a student.
Either way, thank you all again so much for helping me make this clearer in my head. Sending big British kisses to you all! x
I wonder what British kisses are like? Sounds intriguing.
They are just like regular kisses but you need to be dressed as Mary Poppins and it’s usually raining.
“Being a grown up is about committing to things you want to accomplish, and carrying out the responsibilities required to work toward your goals.” Probably my favorite definition of adulthood I’ve ever read.
This is sort of exactly why I started my blog – to answer this question. I sure don’t have it all figured out yet (have a half-time stepkid, don’t know about a full-time kid yet), but I am committed to making my life work without losing myself in it.
My take? Put down some solid roots and grow into the giant, weird, hallucinogenic flower that you are.
I put down roots and grew into my own giant weird hallucinagenic flower! When if I hadnt, I would have probably been.. I dunno, something small, normal and poisonous!
I bought my house at 20 with my then fiancee. Long story short – that was a bad decicion. the fiancee part, not the house.
Having to be the “responsible” one of my friends with a mortage working 2,3 or (at the WORST POINT) 4 jobs to get it paid, on my own.. kinda sucked! It was this HUGE responsibility that I just couldnt handle. Then I changed my mind, and decided it was the best thing to ever happen to me, and I was going to make it that if it was the last thing I did dammit!
So I took awesome far flung jobs with better pay in places I never would have considered if I didnt have the big bad bank on my back all the time. I had incredible adventures! I took WAAAY too many drugs, and enjoyed my fair share of booty.
Just because you own the house doesnt always mean you’ll live in the house. Being a home owner taught me HUGE life lessons. Being a landlord taught me even more life lessons.
After a few years of proper struggle (but lots of parties and fun as weel). I was able to do some awesome things that wouldnt have been possible if I diddnt have equity in my house: I bought a business (granted, that failed – but I cant complain as it led to meeting my darling man and now I”m all pregnant and happy), I bought a classic Corvette (much harder to do in Australia than the states), I travelled to Thailand with my mum, and on a whim went to Germany for 5 weeks to visit my best friend, I’ve also bought another house.
At this point, I have that first little house for sale to raise some money to pay for a few things, like a wedding, being able to build a house on our remote rainforest block and possibly a boat. Or maybe it will just be for savings now I have a baby on the way. I dont know yet.
The point is: You can make any situation either be the path to the life you want or the path to the life you hate. If you feel ready to buy the house – DO IT! But make it the path to all the things you’ve ever wanted. Dont make it the anvil tied around your neck drowning you in poo.
Brilliant! I think the problem for a lot of us though, is the knowing. Knowing what you really want. It can be ever so hard to separate. For instance, the baby thing is one I’m wrestling with right now. Did you always know you wanted one? “Pregnant and happy” jumped out at me, because for myself I forsee “pregnant and terrified.”
Anyone wondering if a baby is right for them should hang around toddlers (plural). If you’re still going ‘Awww… lovely’ after an hour in their company, maybe you have a half-decent maternal streak. No worries then! 😉
Your story sounds kind of similar to mine… My partner and I bought our house last year with the help of both our parents. I’m 24 now and we’re expecting our first baby in October. Yet I still consider my life to be quite offbeat! Unlike you I did get to do a bunch of travelling while in uni*, but I don’t expect it to stop now that we have a home and we’re starting a family.
You ask: “Can I still have an exciting, quirky life with all that grown up stuff to deal with?” To which I reply, grown up stuff doesn’t have to be boring!
How are we offbeat? Let me count the ways…
Our kitchen cupboards are purple, green, yellow and blue, and the walls are orange. Nearly every other room in the house is dual coloured, though some rooms are a standard blue/tan combo.
We have three roommates who help us pay our mortgage, and yes, we intend to keep all of them once baby is born. And yes, one of our roommates is our other roommate’s 12-year-old sister (and legal guardian), and we all pitch in to help them both out with getting school lunches made and paying for summer camps. Considering I only work part-time and my partner’s on welfare at the moment, community-building through home-sharing is super important for not feeling completely tied down to a mortgage!
I dream of being able to take our whole family on vacations across Canada and around the world. I also am excited about having kids relatively young, because it means at 40 my kids could all/both be out of the house, and the opportunities would be endless! Or, we’d all just continue living on our homestead together, barely making ends meet. Who knows, really! Just because you own a home doesn’t mean you can’t rent it out for a year to go live abroad, or in a van or whatever.
*on second thought, this might actually be a bit more important than I originally considered. It was only because I lived in another city in Europe as well as a few others in Canada that I knew that I really definitely wanted to settle in my home region. Same goes for my partner. But you might already know where you want to be long-term!
Well said, Editors! I completely agree!
One of the great things about being “settled down” is having a partner and a base-camp for all your crazy off-beat-ness. I might not have done half the amazing travelling I’ve done without my partner. I’m happy in my little off-beat, academia-nerd life, but also having a long-term, settled relationship.
But, you can also definitely be “settled down” without buying a house! Buying a house can be stressful, so don’t go into it not sure. If you’re sure, and it makes sense for you, go for it – buying a house does not make you some kind of 1950s housewife. (In fact, buying a house at your age is pretty off-beat these days, I’d say!)
yes! Exactly! Nobody buys a house at 23 these days! That’s the first thing I thought of when I read this! And if you can financially do it, then kudos to you! 😀
Being settled (although not a homeowner yet) definitely lets me take on crazy adventures I wouldn’t consider otherwise. Because I have my home and my partner, I feel safe enough that I went back to school and finish my first year of college on thursday. This is a huge big adventure for me (I know, going to college is totally on-beat, but frankly, for me, it’s exactly my-beat. I left school, worked for a while, lived with my partner, settled down, and grew up a bit, and decided to go back to school. I couldn’t do it without the security and support of being fairly settled with my partner. I’m going to travel solo to Israel this summer, and then come back home to him, and have an awesome internship at home. Frankly, if it weren’t for the growth and support my settled life has given me, no way would I be a person with enough strength to tackle these challenges.
Buying a house is such a big thing it’s no wonder you have doubts. I’m 32 and in the proccess of moving off my boat into my first home that I will properly own with my 22 year old boyfriend. I sometimes worry that this is all a bit to much like settling down and the deposit would probably support us a few times round the world but hey the world will always be there and we don’t have to do it all in one go.
The deposit would also be enough for us to move from the UK to Canada which I’d like to do one day. So screw it lets try house buying and if it’s not for us heck we’ll sell up and move to canada. 🙂
You said British kisses, if you are in the UK renting is a total rip off at the moment. If you can afford to buy it fininacially makes sense. Our mortgage will be £250 a month. The house next door is up for rent at nearly £700 a month!!
Also house owning means you can properly decorate and I can’t wait to offbeat decorate my house… It may end up looking like a todler ate a box of crayons and puked everywhere though. 😉
I don’t own a house and I’m not sure if I ever will. Like you, when my boyfriend and I talk about it I get cold feet or can find plenty of reasons not to do it. Of the many the most key is the money. I’m not interested in a stable income. That’s where I shine in my own offbeat way. Improv, illustration, face painting, convention work, barista, baby-sitting, tutoring, community classes, after school programs, subbing… I prefer gigs and temporary assignments.
I love finding opportunities to work and learn. The pay is often fair, but because I loathe 9-5 jobs and a steady paycheck I can’t see myself realistically tackling a mortgage. There have been times when I just barely squeaked by on my rent. My savings are great for emergencies, but it’s hard to build them to a point where a down payment is feasible. Add in the fact that I don’t care for being home too often, and well, I’d make a terrible homeowner. Give me a bed and a sink, that’s all, thanks.
My point is- what is your offbeat quality? Would it be impacted by home ownership? Can you see a compromise? Do you WANT to compromise?!
Claire, thanks for your response; it’s really great to see so many different angles on this.
Your question “what is your offbeat quality?” is exactly what I am struggling with here. I grew up in a relatively offbeat family, with plenty of opportunities to see the world and become an independent, educated woman. However, since I met my boy and graduated from uni, I’m finding my life to be less and less “offbeat”.
As a teen I did experiment with drugs and sex and travel, and I lived abroad for a year in 2010, but now I just think that I’m moving further and further away from the little offbeatling I really thought I was.
Little by little it feels like I’m being sucked into the mainstream and my boy’s traditional family and life view. In this respect, then, buying a house and having children would almost be the nail in the coffin, since I don’t already have all the wonderful, flowering “offbeat qualities” that so many of you wonderful commenters have mentioned which would still come spilling out over the top of these traditional paths.
I feel in my heart that I should love travelling- I speak 5 languages and adored my time abroad, yet in the past year- a year for which I had no plans or responsibilities, I haven’t set foot on foreign soil. I had the finances to do so, but I spend more time on OBH, OBB and OBM than any travel sites. I feel like I need to do all those exciting, hedonistic things in my early 20s to be the person I imagined I’d be growing up, but I also love my boy and can’t wait to have a young family (my extended family is a lot older and I have no grandparents).
I’m such a walking contradiction at the moment and I really think any decision is going to be the wrong one!
Sorry for rambling. I tend to think whilst I type and your question really inspired me.
Thank you 🙂
If you have kids early, then you have all the energy to go travel with them and suddenly sharing experiences with your kids is what makes you offbeat. Or, you are still young enough to go travel the world after they leave the nest. There’s nothing wrong with being settled in your 20’s and then going crazy in your 40’s or 50’s!
No worries! I tend to be the kind of person who vocalizes my train of thought too. Drives most people nuts, but people who are attune to me dig it.
Growing up I was a punkling in a lot of ways. Just vanilla enough to evade notice, but I definitely did not fit in. As I grew older I dropped some of my more extreme habits (like food coloring hair dye, black clothes, spiky jewelry) and enriched the ones I care about (sustainable living, employment, art). If becoming more onbeat upsets you take some time to ask yourself- am I changing for me or for someone else? If it’s for someone else am I afraid of not being accepted?
If your boyfriend is a huge influence but he’s not forcing you to change it may be that you’re subconsciously compromising for him. Compromise can be good but ideally you should both be sacrificing a little for something you both want. And who’s to say your onbeat boyfriend doesn’t adore being exposed to the unknown? If he’s anything like my boyfriend he probably loves that you do your own thing, and enjoys when you bring him along. Globe-trotting and hedonistic adventures can be shared! They can be experienced even when you’re old and have kids!
So maybe you’re the one prompting all this change. It could be you’re dropping some superficial interests. Maybe you need more encouragement to revel in what is still offbeat. At 25 I didn’t realize that work was my offbeat quality. So I doubted everything about myself. My mother gently pointed out that EVERY TIME I had an office job I had a breakdown. I quit and freelanced while job hunting. My mom then pointed out that this happy Claire was the one she watched growing up. Perhaps some loved ones in your life could provide similar feedback. Do they think you’re trying to force yourself into something you’re not? When are you happiest?
Finally, the offbeat people in my life find it just spills out of them. We still do traditional things (work, pay bills, love, eat, and sleep) we just do it in our own way. Some of it glamorous, some of it mundane. We’re true to our values regardless of who accepts them. Focus on that and soon people are gonna tell you how much they love how your offbeat-ness just flows from you!
Oh, I just rambled there too. Sorry!
I am 26 and will still be in grad school for the next 2 years. I’ve never NOT been a student in my entire life. And I am now married and own a house- a far cry from all of my friends who are still dating and living in separate apartments. I never expected to be doing all this while still in school. My husband and I also struggled with the idea of settling down too quickly. But at this point, we are happier than ever. Because now we have a large enough place to host awesome parties! We can supplement our food supply with homegrown herbs and veggies! We have a craft room! We can drill holes in the walls to hang up all of our swords! We are setting up a stained glass workshop in our garage! We finally have the space and the freedom to pursue everything we have always wanted to do!
It sounds like you’re dealing with two different, but intertwined dilemmas here.
One is your doubts about buying a house and those are totally valid! Buying a house, especially with someone else, is a huge commitment and not a decision to be taken lightly. Home ownership is a long-term commitment that will have you and your sweetly legally linked for a long time. That being said, buying a house doesn’t mean you have to “settle down.” Owning your own home means crazy sex in any room! Hell, you can even install various sexual devices. And, you’ll have a base to return from your travels to.
The second, and much more complex issue is being in your early 20s. There are, I’m sure, people out there who charted their life course early on and have been happy with it. Most people, however, seem to need a bit more time. Some of the things I wanted to do at 23 do not appeal to me at all at 27. That being said, I do still feel like I’ve kept true to my core beliefs and been able to live in my own offbeat style.
might i also say that reading this post from cat a while back: http://offbeathome.com/2011/12/homeownership-and-activism
has definitely changed my opinion on homeownership and all that goes along with it. “settling down” may not be settling down at all, but rather taking ownership and responsibility of your life to live it the way you want. for me, that will mean being as radically self-reliant as i can be, when the time comes. 🙂
I can definitely understand where you’re coming from and can offer a tiny piece of my experience that might help…
I just bought a house with my partner last year and since we’re only 21 and not married or engaged, we decided to write a super legal and ridiculously hilariously un-romantic half-page-long contract about the house and who owns how much based on contributions, etc.
People think its very weird and unromantic, but we think of it as the “anti-jinx”, and it has worked out great so far, no money fights and we feel really empowered. We made it so the agreement dissolves when we get married, so yay for extra romance when we do that!
Anyway, I figure if you’re worried about the commitment financially and to your boyfriend, something like that may help.
I haven’t read all the comments yet, but dear god I hope the answer to this question is yes.
I think they’re totally compatible! From my own experience, when I met my boyfriend at age 21, we were both essentially homeless, neither of us had jobs, and we sold weed and other drugs to have enough money to buy gas and food. And we had a shit-ton of epic adventures.
Now, at 23, we both have jobs. I work from home, he manages a turkey farm. We rent a house in a downtown area. My kids live with us most of the time and I spend a lot of time cleaning and cooking. And we still have a shit-ton of adventures.
Having a home base is a great thing. Having a job sucks at times but it’s really nice having the financial stability to actually do things you want to do. I don’t particularly love cleaning but I love having a clean, orderly, peaceful environment. I enjoy having my kids with me and homeschooling them when they’re here, and I enjoy the extra freedom and quiet when they go visit their biological dad. And we’ve even managed to still find a place for the drugs and alcohol…..except now, they don’t run our lives. We have freedom to use when it’s a good idea, but when we have shit to take care of……we can keep them stashed away in a drawer for a week or a month without craving for them. “Settling down” has been really good for us.
If it is about timing, then I say yes, have cold feet! haha You can travel after grad, for 3 months, 6 months, or a year–and then get a house. What does waiting a few months hurt? And the best part is, if you travel hard, you might be positively aching to come home and have some stability, privacy, grounded-ness and be so excited, not scared, to set up your home. I traveled straight after college graduation until my student loans came out of deferment, then I got a job and started trying to cover everything. I am so glad I traveled then, because since then, life has happened and it has not been possible to travel–for 6 years. I still get around on short trips, and I have been establishing a way, WAY more amazing, offbeat life than I had even envisioned for myself. So I’m not sad at all. And I will travel epically again in the future. But I am glad I did it when I did; it was vital to my development and the unraveling of my future path. So, if what you need is to travel now, travel now.