A few months ago I wrote about my hopes for a life in Birmingham, what I might do in the art world and academia, and how my husband might also be able to find something great there. I have since then been scampering around trying to find rental properties in a nice place, close to New College and our friends. Our dream was to find somewhere that allowed pets and children to allow our circumstances to change as we got older, a garden and somewhere to park the car. If we had a spare room then that was great – we could have friends and family to stay.
Of course, one thing I didn’t reckon on, and yet should have realised, is that St Andrews where I have lived most of my grown-up life, is a very different place to the rest of the UK. In St Andrews, students (and others) can plan 9 months in advance. In fact, students are forced to plan that far in advance because otherwise there aren’t really people to group with, or even properties to be had. Being used to this, used to talking to people a month after you start, praying you’ll all still be friends, finding a house before Christmas for the next Autumn term, became the normal way to do it.
When looking for property in Birmingham, however, I was told in no uncertain terms that I should stop bothering the Letting Agents and come back to them in June/July/August. They get houses on the market, advertise, and the good ones will be gone in about a month. That’s just the way it works everywhere else. This for a St Andrews graduate is b****y annoying. I wanted to get things done and out the way and feel secure that I wouldn’t be stressed trying to find somewhere and pack all at the same time.
But then God answered my prayer: the minister who married my husband and I, and his family, and two students, are moving. So what, I hear you ask. They are moving to a house, a BEAUTIFUL house, with a garden, kitchen (inc. Aga), parlour and cellar, fireplaces, etc etc etc, AND a self-contained flat on the second floor. This they have offered to us for a low rent price, with the opportunity to share meals with them when we want to.
I have been an advocate for community living for a long time. Having first read books like The Irresistible Revolution, I was really willing to find a group of people who share similar values to me and figure out life together. Now married, I think both my husband and I would really enjoy people around us more then there have been in our Dundee flat. I also believe that couples can learn a lot about love when their actions are held accountable, not just by their significant other, but their housemates and friends too.
Of course, it’s hard, very hard, but I do believe the lessons are worth it. One day I hope to be able to create a home where the door can really be open to those who need family and friends, who need comfort and sanctuary. I am also a little bit scared.
I am scared because I have suffered from depression and that changed me. Whereas 5 years ago, even 4 years ago, I would’ve had my door open and was willing to see everyone, there was a time in my life where I just couldn’t take that and instead I closed myself off. I am gradually learning to be more sociable and I do think a new start will help. Yet, there is this part of me that worries I’ll become Mr Rochester‘s crazy wife in the attic.
There is also the part of me that has always been wary of being a burden, taking advantage, or of people who offer things to me because I worry they don’t know who I really am, that they’ll realise they’ve made a big mistake and that’ll be awful. I also don’t want to become a person who doesn’t speak my mind. There was a time I was manipulated and lied to, and knew it, but couldn’t stand up to speak out. It killed me that I wasn’t saying what I knew to be right, and I hated being the person victimised by someone so selfish. There is no-one in the house we are moving into that I can believe would act in a similar way, but I have found I can get intimidated much easier over the past couple of years.
So to remove myself from these fears I am attempting to focus on the hopes for life in Birmingham. I hope that hubby and I will be able to fit our lives into the flat, and that it will become a home for us. I will have a corner to create art and study, painting will be put on the walls and photos of friends and family will be seen all around us. We will be able to set up a standing desk – something that will hopefully be much better for us in the long run. Our bedroom will be somewhere of just sleep, rest and relaxation. Maybe one day we’ll have a baby and be able to set up a baby hammock in the corner of our room. I hope for a dog and a cat, intelligent creatures that will greet hubby at the door after work. I hope for great conversations and laughter over meals and time spent in the main house with our friends. I hope for holy Christmases and Easter, and summers in the garden planting vegetables to feed our table. I hope for prayer spaces and God’s blessing on us, and that people will recognise our way of living and see God through it. I hope that we will all be able to support each other, look after each other and share our lives in the best of ways. I hope I can be a good example and teach and learn simultaneously. I hope our life will be healthy and make us better people, all of us. It will be a new start, somewhere new, where I will do new things, meet new people, and begin a whole new chapter of my life.
It does feel like chapters. My first was in Danbury, in primary school, with Nanna, and so much more. My second was Southend-on-Sea, with church and friends and art. My third was St Andrews, Scotland, my marriage starting, my depression, my miscarriage. My fourth is unknown, there is less of a clear direction but I’m likely to be in it for awhile. I can’t imagine we are going to leave any sooner than 5 years down the line. That makes it a pretty big section of my life and I want to step into it strong. I hope I can.
What are your experiences with community life? Any advice or wisdom?