Maybe it’s just me and maybe it’s just this life stage – but I hear someone say it almost weekly. I hear it uttered in those intimate heart-to-hearts with friends who’ve become sisters and I hear it peppered in between the cheers at the crowded get togethers where we pile twenty of us into a living room and spend a Saturday night watching college football on three separate TV’s and sip on our favorite local brews. I hear it in heartfelt confessions of someone who’s in a new relationship or in the back-and-forth debating as friends talk through job transitions and cross-country moves.
“I just don’t want to settle,” they’ll say as they rattle off the what-ifs and the should-be-could-be ideals of a future unknown. They’ll envision a life where they move forward with this decision and the settling that comes along with it and they’ll see themselves unhappy and filled regret. The will see the future version of themselves and that version of themselves wishes they’d done it all different. And why? Because they settled.
And I get it.
I’ve said these words too. I’ve been paralyzed by the fear of messing it up, missing out and looking back on my life with regret. I’ve been cautious of settling too. Settling in relationships, settling in jobs, settling in a move, in purchasing a home — even in buying a pair of jeans. But lately, I’ve been questioning out resistance to settling and thinking about where it stems from.
It’s not really a novel finding or anything we should scratch our heads about, but I feel like just maybe we live in a society (or maybe a generation) where we’re not too thrilled to commit to things. To plans, to a relationship, to a job, to a dinner next Wednesday night. And in our commitment-averse society, we have a deeply held perception of settling that almost always carries around a negative connotation. We don’t want to settle down or settle in or settle for. Like a dark shadow that lurks just two steps behind it, we hear the word “settling” (or the phrase “settling down”) and we panic and envision the death of our dreams and ambitions. We see the life we want jumping out the window and taking every last trace of our God-given desires and passions with it for the plunge.
But settling doesn’t always mean that. Settling does not always mean downsizing our dreams or giving up on our life goals.
The best example of this I can think of is our (twenty-something) perception of dating (and more specifically, dating to marry). In our early twenties – or maybe even mid-to-late twenties / early-thirties – we don’t want to “settle down.” We want to see what’s out there, explore our options and really vet out our choices before we tie ourselves down to one person, forever. We fear commitment because commitment means sticking around when things get hard. It means passing up on something new and shiny in favor of something that we’ve vowed to for the rest of our earthly days. We shy away from the “M” word and we roll our eyes when we find yet another Save the Date in the mailbox, call our friends and say, “Another one bites the dust, huh?”*
The thought of settling terrifies us because it means we are choosing to be where we are without achingly longing to be somewhere else.
When we “settle down” (in dating / in marriage) we are saying, “I choose you and no one else. I choose you on the good days and the bad days. I choose you when you’re sweet to me and when you’re rotten. I choose you when you’re promoted and I choose you when you’re let go. I choose you as a size 6 and I choose you as a size 18. I choose your health and I choose your cancer. I choose your celebrations and your mourning. I choose you when someone else wants to choose me. I choose you when I don’t want to choose you anymore. I choose to keep choosing you.”
But some of us don’t know if we can do that. Some of us doubt our ability to be in one place, to be with one person, to be in one city or one position without tirelessly plotting to move on to the next big thing.
We’ve got a bad case of FOMO. And instead of burning us out by causing us to be everywhere and do everything? It’s paralyzing some of us and we’re talking ourselves out of doing much of anything. Instead of choosing (a person, a job, a house, a move, etc.), we don’t choose anything. And not deciding becomes a decision in and of itself.
So how can we fix it?
I think we have no choice but to remember this: We are so very small and our lives are so very short. We will not settle our lives away by making decisions and taking gambles on people or jobs or cities. But we will waste our lives if we refuse to choose. If we sit back and let the fear of missing out keep us from committing to anything, we will miss out on infinitely more than we could ever imagine. I promise you that settling in bad. I promise you
Today, I challenge you to settle into something good. Choose that thing you’ve been tossing around for months. Take a gamble and make the move.
What are your thoughts on “settling”? Do you always feel like you’re looking onto the next thing or another possibility instead of being in the here and now?
*It’s important to note that I am not encouraging “settling” in dating in the sense that you should date someone who – for a multitude of reasons – it would be unwise to do so. Specifically in romantic relationships, there’s a stark difference between “settling” and “settling down.” If you’re confused about the two or think you may be “settling,” let’s chat! You can always shoot me an e-mail here and we can hash it out together!