I want to "settle down" with a bunch of friends - but how??

sent to my newsletter on Dec 3, 2019

Last night, a friend asked me if I've thought about what I want my future to look like. Do I want to get married? Have kids? Where do I want to live? Who do I want to live with?

In some ways, I feel like I have no idea what I want -- little sense of what job I want in the long-term, or even how I want to make an income, or what city (or non-city!) I want to live in. Lately I've seen so many friends and acquaintances changing jobs and moving cities, which has heightened my sense of “I really have no idea what I want to do with my life, or how that might change in a few years”.

But I have been thinking of something for a while! I frequently fantasize about eventually settling down in a community home of sorts. I want to live in a space with these things:

I dream about things we could do together:

I’ve talked to a lot of friends who have similar dreams. I know many people that value community and their friendships, and would rather live with a group of friends than just a nuclear family. I often think of this twitter thread Jackie Luo wrote earlier this year, which articulates a lot of feelings I have around wanting to build a family around friends instead of a single spouse, as well as feelings about how difficult that would be.

Because it seems extremely difficult to make this dream happen!! Some issues I can think of off the top of my head:

How do you get everyone in the same place at the same time?

I think this might be the most difficult issue. Moving houses, cities, or jobs are all huge life decisions that don’t happen very often. How do you coordinate with your friends to set up this community and weave your lives together at the same time (or on a close enough time frame that things work out smoothly)? How does the city we choose to move to make a difference in how easy this is? One approach to addressing this problem is living with people I’m not friends with (yet!) but who have similar community goals - which makes timing much easier, but adds a lot more uncertainty around what connection in the house would feel like.

Who will have the kids?

I feel like so many folks talk about wanting to be a friend to someone with kids so that they can be a part of their upbringing, but very few of my friends have expressed wanting to have kids and raise them in a community home like this. (Perhaps this says something about how uneasy many of us are about long-term commitment?) I feel like raising a kid with lots of people around to help out is so much better than raising a kid with one coparent, so I imagine eventually someone would want to be a parent in a space like this.

How do you foster a sense of stability?

I see lots of community homes in San Francisco, but they seem to be spaces where people move in and out frequently. I so strongly desire the stability of the “married with kids” home, but I also want the people I live with for many years to be a larger group of loved ones than average nuclear family. But the more people that live in a community, the more different life trajectories to consider and the more likely things will change frequently. Is there a sweet spot of group size that helps things feel fairly stable while preserving the social aspects of community living? Does the city we live in make a difference? If we form the community in our 30s instead of our 20s, would that help?

I also have been thinking about how sometimes friends who are super great can end up being hard to live with -- and it’s hard to know this until you’re living together. If I want stability, how can I find a group of friends that I get along with both as lovely people and also as people I enjoy living with?

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So, I have a lot of questions and no clear sense of how I can make this happen, but I have some time to figure it out. I also know this dream can come together in a lot of different ways - here are just a few examples:

I haven’t done much research on this stuff, so I’m sure there’s lots I can learn to help figure it out. I recently acquired a free copy of Get Together and also happened to come across a guide to setting up an intentional community house (written by an SF housing coop) today while writing this newsletter!

If you have any resource recommendations, or ideas for how to make something like this happen, I’d love to hear about them!