I just got back from my annual holiday visit back to Indiana. As always, it’s great to see family and old friends. But, this year in particular, it made me wonder if it might be time to return there for good.
After 20 years in DC, it seems unlikely that I’d even think about that possibility. When I got here back in 1997, I fell so completely in love with the place that I thought I’d never even consider going back.
But circumstances this year have made me re-think that. My ongoing work issues, the fact that I don’t have deeply planted roots here (no home ownership, no relationship, currently no permanent job), and some family health issues have really made me think about it.
There are some great advantages to going back. The cost of living is much cheaper there. I could afford to finally own a home, travel more, etc. There would be a great support system in place already between my family and longtime friends. And a slower pace of life certainly sounds appealing at the moment.
Another friend of mine was home visiting in Indiana at the same time. She posted about how, even though she wanted to get out of her hometown so badly when she was young, her hometown now felt “idyllic.”
I know that feeling. I often feel it when I visit. But I have to remind myself that it’s just an illusion. Visiting and living in a place are very, very different things. All the issues of everyday life will follow you into that “idyllic” place and make it very real very fast.
But, for me, there’s more to it than just having to deal with the annoyances of every day life. As a gay man, the decision to live in Indiana carries a big price: the loss of legal protections in housing and employment. And the loss of any kind of vibrant LGBT social structure.
And there are other considerations. In chatting with a group of high school friends, I mentioned the idea of coming back and how affordable housing is there.
Their response? Yes, housing is affordable. But once you come back and buy a home…you’re never leaving again. You simply won’t get enough out of the sale of a home in Indiana to afford to buy another one in a more expensive area.
So, if I decided to do this, it would most likely be a permanent thing. That’s also very scary.
And let’s not even talk about the lack of professional opportunities in my line of work. There just aren’t that many PR/communications openings in Indiana. I could dead end my career at a crucial point.
At the moment, I have absolutely no idea what to do. One way lies the most likely way to attain many of the things I currently want – at the cost of greater risk to myself and the loss of very important intangibles. The other way keeps those protections and intangibles – but could prolong this period of uncertainty and instability.
Ultimately, events may force me to make a decision. Until then, I’ll keep puzzling over this quandary. Just add it to the big pile of uncertainty that my life currently is.