Ever since I stopped blogging regularly, it seems to be a trend that I just make all my huge life announcements here.
(I don’t mind.)
So here goes…
I found a house in Denver!
This is a big deal. It’s exciting and scary. Most exciting part: I’ll be living with 6 other people.
Sometimes (actually, all the times), the interwebs give us spotty ideas of how our friends are doing, so I figured this could help fill some of that in. Feel free to read whichever questions you’re curious about and skip the others.
To catch you up from the last post…
I moved back to Colorado 3 months ago after living in Boston for 17 months. I relocated to Boston for work. Read more about why I moved back here.
Aren’t you already in Denver?
Sort of. I live in Aurora, which is a suburb of Denver.
I was planning to secure my own housing in the Denver area, and in the process, my parents encouraged me to stay with them in Aurora to save up for a few months and look for a place that was really what I wanted. So that’s what I did.
The place I’m moving is in “Denver proper” — in the very southwest corner of Denver.
What did your housing search look like?
It started with a vision that’s been developing inside me for the past year or so:
In our digitally-connected society, we tend to forget the importance of local living. In an earlier blog post, I considered it as a form of gnosticism — a false, harmful philosophy that thrives on over-separation of the physical and non-physical aspects of life.
Since I work remotely, I have a lot of freedom regarding where I live. I’ve felt challenged to use that freedom not just to pursue my own preferences and enjoy my unchosen privileges, but to really consider what kind of living situation would be meaningful in the grand scheme.
To begin the search, I chose four cities that contained (1) people I wanted to be more like and (2) places I wanted to be in personally and professionally.
I soon narrowed those down to two cities: Littleton and Denver. I knew and believed either place could be meaningful. I figured the final tipping point would be where I could find housing.
I started my search on housing apps and soon found out that Zillow is the Tinder of house hunting. This method of seemingly infinite options caused to figure there was always some better option I was missing out on, paralyzing me into thinking I’d be missing out or settling by confining myself to the option before me.
After months of getting nowhere fast, I changed my approach. Rather than searching not for a house, I search for people who were a mutual fit in our values and commitments.
Even if their house didn’t have air conditioning and off-street parking. The switch was about changing what I considered my “non-negotiables” and what inevitable obstacles were worth overcoming.
The people I found were leaders of a small group at the Denver church. They shared a similar vision I do about community (of which I’ll explain more below). They lived in a fairly diverse neighborhood. And — while I consider myself more of a skeptic than a “spiritually sensitive” person — the moment I stepped into the house for my first visit, I felt a strange sense that this was where I needed to be.
Hold up. You mentioned something about 6 roommates. What’s up with that?
This may be the most shocking to some but is the most exciting part to me. I’ll be sharing a house with a married couple, their two babies, and two other single people.
Here is a quote I read months ago that seemed to fit a lot of pieces together for me:
“Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives. ” // Henri Nouwen
Recently, I posted an article called “How our housing choices make adult friendships more difficult.” Read it.
Here’s the thing. I am 25. I am single. I am watching many friends get married and have kids. I am watching many single peers feeling like they’re missing out. But the funny thing is that even my friends who are married end up feeling like they’re missing out. Why?
ALL of us — married, pursuing marriage, and otherwise — have a problem: our current society isn’t conducive to community forming naturally. It’s like pulling teeth trying to have friends post-college, much less trying to have community in all its diversity and mutual character growth. And it doesn’t seem to get easier as the decades roll by, either. It’s not that everyone is averse to friendship. Or that we totally LOVE being alone and private.
It’s more that, by following the pattern of how we currently do relationships, we’re set up for failure.
And much of how we currently do things results from this reality: being separate from people we don’t like is a lot easier than learning how to get along with them. (And a lot easier to sell when people are consuming your housing opportunities.)
It used to be that you had to depend on other people to survive. Now, it’s expected that you don’t. You need to take care of yourself! That’s how you prove you’re a man, a woman, an American, or whatever you grew up being told you needed to prove that you are. Now, you need to be so independent that, even if your marriage doesn’t satisfy all your relational needs (who’da thunk?), or your relationship with your parents is complicated, or you have mental health challenges, or you have financial challenges, or the government or employer decide to switch things up on people like you, or (God forbid!) you just plain get lonely — you just need to deal with it. And if you DO depend on people, it’s unwise! Because it WILL be hurtful and you WILL have to give things up. (And it’s not as financially scalable as mass produced dwelling units in which humans need not interact with anyone they don’t prefer to be around.) In this society, depending on others is a sign of weakness, failure, or simply a lack of “better” options.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think society was EVER supposed to be that way.
For that reason, I’m doing something a bit counter-cultural. I’m putting myself in a living situation where I have to rub shoulders with people. Where community has the potential to grow. Where babies have the potential to scream during my remote work meetings. Where difficult, awkward conversations have the potential to occur.
Where loneliness — the first non-good thing to enter the world, according to the Judeo-Christian origins narrative — has the potential to dissolve.
One of my friends recently wrote a book that talked about something called “communal living” where families and single people live together and share responsibilities and basically make it their aim to know and be known by each other in a way that’s deeper than just existing together in a similar vicinity. You may have heard of its close but larger-scale cousins, intentional community and co-housing. This book is one of many things that have inspired me to take this step.
It’s amazing to me how this is so counter-cultural. It’s amazing to me how much we’ve depended on heredity and/or romance to determine our primary social groups. How we tell people they MUST get married and have kids or else they aren’t allowed to experience family. The truth is, many people won’t go this route. In fact, statistically, 1 in 4 people in my generation will NEVER get married, and a significant amount plan never to have children of their own. (This is both a challenge and a potential HUGE strength in my generation if we choose to actively see it that way.)
As someone who is seeking God and Jesus, along with diversity and community and city-flourishing, I am intrigued by the idea that any person of any background is invited to be adopted into this big spiritual family where someone totally different from us in every way can be our brother or sister. I am intrigued that there could be a family even stronger and more united than biological family or romantic attraction. With how many broken families there are, I’m convinced that putting spiritual community into action could be an amazing light to individuals, neighbors, and perhaps even cities.
We need more than mere discussions about what marriage and family should or shouldn’t look like. We need spiritual community in action, because community done well is a key remedy to our relational discontent.
Many of our societal problems are a direct result of people drifting away from community and into isolation. As a simple example, just look teen risk statistics. Just a few decades ago, the greatest risks for teens happened with other people (like partying, fighting, drugs, and pregnancy). But increasingly, the greatest risks involve relational isolation (like depression, anxiety, suicidality, drugs, and pornography addiction). Social media has brought us together in ways, but in other ways, it has allowed us to slip away from the difficult but necessary parts of community.
I’m not here to convince you of causality. But I would like to point out how divided we are as a nation, and the premise that living digitally, rather than in an embodied way, may very well have contributed to that division and isolation.
So, while a country is drifting away from community, I want to run toward it, in the best way I know how, with the opportunities I happened to have this winter.
Where we live, whom we live near, and with whom we live REALLY matters.
Denver proper has a special place in my heart. I am drawn to urban places more than many of my friends. I’m enamored by the beauty of architecture. I’m intrigued by cultural, political, and ethnic diversity that forces people into conflict and conversation that they can comfortably avoid elsewhere. But I’m drawn to that conflict in that I think it can be meaningful and constructive when we enter it well.
I’m intimidated by cities. They make me feel small, unequipped, uneducated. But when I remember that the people in cities are as human as I am, I realize that I’m not too small to be a positive influence in other people’s lives in some way. Denver is SO full of culture. In my current circles, we’re aware of the aspects like craft beer, outdoor enthusiasts, game cafes, and coffee. But there are so many layers of culture. Jazz. Spoken word. Startups. Finance. Faith. Dance. Theater. Visual arts. Environmental movements.
There are also layers of issues. Racial segregation. Gentrification. Isolation. Sex trafficking. Intersectionality. Irreconcilable differences of political and religious thought and ways of life. Hatred. Homelessness. Discrimination. Dehumanization. Closed-mindedness on all sides. Challenges in access to education, healthcare, and skills training. General lack of long-term hope to escape from generational cycles. And in light of all these issues…
I want to be in Denver.
Somewhere along the way, I developed a desire to dive into some of these challenges, orienting myself to their complexity and nuance, and bringing something that perhaps no one else could bring.
I have no delusion that I’m some “rescuer” who can remedy complex problems by just swooping in on a culture I barely know. I’m no expert on Denver, nor on its residents or challenges. I think the best thing I have to offer is a listening ear and a willingness to learn from other people. I think a posture of listening and learning is contagious. And it can cause diverse people to listen to one another in ways they never had before. Once you feel heard, you don’t have to feel so defensive. You are free to consider various facets of something, rather than clinging to the one everyone seems to be ruthlessly attacking.
I love Denver. I want to serve Denver. I want to get to know it more and more. I want to see it do well.
Will these cities be fine without me? Maybe. Could I be renewed in some way by engaging deeply with them? Totally. Could they be renewed in some way with me around? By some miracle, I believe so.
How can I support you in this next season?
You probably have completely different questions than the ones I’m asking, but the benefit of blogging is that I call the shots. 😉
I’ll start with my current needs and hopes:
- I DO already have help moving on account of my awesome, dedicated parents.
- Since my house was built in the 1950s, I’m hoping to decorate my room with mid-century modern furniture.
- I still work for a nonprofit where I raise my own support: I’m still only about 30% funded in my salary and am looking for monthly donors.
- As part of my work with a ministry aiming to produce strong/safe/secure family and church environments for LGBT+ people, I’m hoping to do something really tangible to allieviate LGBT+ youth homelessness right here in Denver.
- Also, in case you didn’t get this from this post, I LOVE PEOPLE and thus often like meeting up with them in-person instead of just online.
In other words, you can start by reaching out via comment, social media, email, text, phone, or, better yet, visiting me in Denver!!! (I’ll also drive or fly to you when possible.)
Well, as always is the case when I write, it is far too late, I am running out of vacation/sleep time, I’ve probably said things that are incomplete or simply WAY TOO LONG or otherwise misconstruing what I want to communicate or are spelled wrong, but I needed to get this update out, so I’m going to stop here.
Please comment below with questions or comments or disagreements or encouragements. I love and receive them all. Thank you for reading.