(New York, NY. 6.29.2012)
Moving is a weird thing. Not only do you put yourself through the exercise of physically relocating yourself, but you are often, at the same time, asked to confront your past and emotional attachments, assess where you are now, and hopefully move forward. A week ago, I shipped my adult life in twelve boxes back to Taiwan. In three months, I will be reunited with them. It will be like time-traveling and reacquainting myself with a former me.
I already know I over-packed. In my mind, I’ve started making a list of things I will immediately have to throw out: dryer balls, which I received as a Christmas gift, but have no use for because my parents hang dry their clothes; these beautiful wine glasses that I bought from a stoop sale in Brooklyn, which are bound to break because, although I couldn’t say “goodbye” to them, I also couldn’t spend the money to package them more carefully; CDs that I have already digitized but still never listen to because I can’t do multiple things at once and listening to music necessarily means I would have to stop EVERYTHING else; clothes that have made the donation cut so many times because each time I’ve managed to convince myself that they’d make cute maternity clothes for that one day in the distant future when I am magically with child….
The list could go on, but the truth is that I’ve already forgotten what I’ve packed. Once it’s out of sight, it really can be easily put out of mind. The tricky part is that objects have the tendency to linger. They sit in a Salvation Army pile for just long enough to re-catch my eye on a random Sunday and convince my to move them back to my for-keeps pile. It is an ongoing dance.
Have you ever seen those letterpress cards or old illustrations of a finger with a string tied around it and a caption that reads “Don’t Forget?” I often wonder about that. If all it took was a piece of string to remind you of that thing you had to remember, then was that task so hard to remember in the first place? On the flipside, if we’ve started to rely on objects to hold memories for us and we feel like we would otherwise forget that memory in lieu of the object, then how important is that memory, really? It’s all very easy to rationalize, but, as a living, breathing, feeling creature, life is not that black and white.
The other day, I reached into my closet to retrieve a box of art supplies that I had not packed. During the packing process, I had not even touched this box because I was so sure of what it contained and knew I wouldn’t want to keep anything in it. It ended up being a combination of paintbrushes and greetings cards from over the years. I laughed out loud at all the notes my friends had written over the years and couldn’t resist tucking a few away (okay, a lot) into my suitcase. I was especially happy to find this Hulk Smash Valentine’s Day card that I received from my friend Mike years ago. I was so happy, in fact, that I messaged Mike to tell him I had found it. He, also elated, instantly asked for a picture of it. Only when I attempted to capture the front and back of the card, did I realize that it wasn’t from him at all. It was from someone else that I had just defriended on Facebook a few days earlier. For a moment, I debated keeping the card. Afterall, I had kept it all these years. For another moment, I debated re-adding this “friend.” After some classic guessing and second-guessing, I told myself that I hadn’t even exchanged a “hi” with my Valentine-issuer since that initial friendship request five years ago. There was no point in hanging onto a memory that I had misremembered—although both memories, the real and the imagined, brought a smile to my face before the card went in the trash.
What I’m finding is that moving on and un-cluttering our minds and homes can take years and multiple reboots. I wish that in one go I could become the hippie-slash-minimalist that I’m dying to be. Nonetheless, all my attachments make me me, for better or for worse. I can look at the things I own and know that they are serving a specific, possibly unnecessary, purpose at this moment in time…and I am confident that, when the time is right, I can let go of them.