The Paradox of Nesting In: How buying a home abroad taught me the value of trusting my instincts
If I were to reflect on my 8 years in London, amongst the many great things that happened, above all it was defined by movement. Every 6-12 months I would move from one flat to another. From North to South, East to North, and back again. Every year I was on this relentless pursuit to find a place I could root myself, a place that would feel like - dare I say it - home.
It wasn’t until around move number 6, right about the part when I started to think I might be clinically depressed (true story - more on that here), that I realised I was uprooting my boyfriend and I every year in pursuit of something that I would never find. What I wanted wasn’t a nicer flat, or a better location. What I wanted was to stop thinking of my parents’ houses as ‘home’, and instead step into adulthood and create a nest of my own. Trouble is, before you can create a nest, you first need a place you want to put it.
A lot of the conversations that led to us eventually moving to Copenhagen stem from this fairly sad time in my life. I knew that I wanted to buy a place, but I not only had no earthly way of saving money whilst living in London, but also no desire to stay there. And so began the process of figuring out: if not London, then where?.
Turns out, “where” was Copenhagen, and pretty soon into our Danish adventure we decided to become homeowners here. If you haven’t already, you can read more about how that happened here.
Finally! After many years of craving my own little nest, it was happening. I was beyond ecstatic when the offer on our beautiful flat was accepted, and the next 4 months I was full to bursting point with the excitement of planning every aspect of how we wanted our little home to be. Everything was perfect. And then - about 3 days before we got the keys, I began to panic.
Not like a little panic. But like, a deep rising panic in the space between my diaphragm and throat that makes it hard to breath, panic. In the middle of the night, I just woke up and realised - “fuck. I’m going to be so tied here when we have the apartment.”
I realised that the freedom that came with being able to leave Copenhagen at a moment’s notice was about to end. Suddenly it dawned on me that if I wanted to leave Denmark and go back to the UK, I’d have all these things tying me here. All these possessions, and legal contracts, and utility bills, and… well, you get the point.
Now I write it down, I realise how totally paradoxical that is. Despite craving someplace to root down for so many years in London, turns out the rootlessness I’d experienced in the first year in Denmark had been something I’d really enjoyed. I was really, really scared when I realised it was going to end.
All of a sudden, and totally unexpectedly I felt frightened about the decision to create a home away from the UK. What about my parents? Will I see them enough? What about our children? Will they now be Danish?! What about if Ryanair decides to stop their route to Stansted??? No, but seriously - What if we don’t want to be here any more?! WHAT WILL WE DO WITH ALL THIS FURNITURE WE JUST BOUGHT?? 1000000000 what-abouts and what-ifs began racing through my mind and I found myself feeling really unexpectedly uncertain about the commitment we were about to make.
When I dissect it now, I think that uncertainty was fuelled for the most part by the fear of the unknown. Buying a place in the UK would put us on course for a relatively predictable life plan - if I really squinted, I could probably foresee the way our future would pan out if we went down that path. But buying in Denmark? God knows what that’s going to mean for us.
Until now I’ve felt like a visitor in Denmark, but by settling here I feel like a citizen, and with that comes a lot of unknowns. I literally have no idea what to expect from the next 5 years now that we have made the decision to root ourselves here more permanently, and, whilst that is exciting and exhilarating, it’s also a little (a lot) nerve-wracking.
And so there you have it, my big learning from the past few months: The Paradox of Nesting. Or actually perhaps that should just be: The Paradox of Finally Getting What You Want. It’s never as black and white as you picture it will be, never as totally-rosy tinted as you imagine. But what I’ve also learned is to have total faith in my gut instinct. No matter how hard I tried, I honestly couldn’t tell you why we decided to make the decision to move and settle here, other than to say it just feels right. When I was having those panic attacks at night, in the end I would always come back to the simple fact of it: Britain will always be a huge part of my life, but Copenhagen feels like my home. And no furniture is so difficult to dismantle that it can’t be moved if that feeling ever changes.
I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately, which has taught me a lot about going inwards when I’m confused by the noise of my anxiety. Inside, where your gut instinct lies, it’s silent, and certain. But life, society and your mind is pretty intent on overwhelming you with a thousand confusing, and competing, choices - so to get to that inner compass, you first have to cut through a lot of whitenoise. Whatever you feel when you get to your compass might defy logic. It might not make sense to anyone else. But if you just trust your gut when doubt and fear begin to creep in, I promise you, you won’t go far wrong.
So here’s to trusting yourself, embracing your anxieties about the decisions you make, and celebrating the awesomeness of the road you decide to walk.