When I was a kid, my parents tried to make money in the real estate market. They would buy a fixer-upper in what my father hoped was an up-and-coming neighborhood, and we would live in half of it while they did renovations. Many of my childhood memories involve paint spackle and trips to Moore’s Hardware. My brother and I loved playing in the bathroom section of Moore’s: sitting on all the toilets and opening the shower stall doors.
Of course, as soon as the house was all shiny and new-looking, my parents would sell it or rent it out, and we’d move into the next old charmer. This is why, from the ages of infant to nine-year-olds, I moved a total of seven times.
As an adult, I’m not into the whole DIY renovation stuff, but I do continue to move at an alarming rate. And now it’s not just from one house to another, a few blocks away, this time it’s from one side of the country to the next. Ten years ago, I graduated college in Virginia and moved to New Orleans. Six years later, I moved to DC, then to Massachusetts, then back to Virginia, then to Seattle, and now my fiancé and I have just moved to Minneapolis. We arrived here on Saturday.
Moving is annoying, but in a way, I appreciate the opportunity that packing gives me. It gives me the chance to go through my things and wonder: do I ever use this? Do I like this anymore? Is it worth taking up space in the cube for this?
It’s amazing the things that I hold on to. While cleaning out a kitchen drawer a few weeks ago, I found a blue plastic shark that had come as a stirrer in a drink I’d had at Lucy’s Surfer Bar in New Orleans, circa 2009. Somehow that shark had come along with me to all of my various abodes, and why? So I could be reminded of that one particular drink? Or because I thought I might use the plastic shark to stir another drink in the future ? I threw the little guy into the recycling.
One day (hopefully soon), I will stay somewhere for at least five years, and I will love being settled down, but staying in one place means I’ll start accumulating stuff. Without constant moves to help me prune, I’ll need to take it upon myself to, every now and again, go through my things and reassess. What do I really need? What do I really want?
Three days before we left for Minnesota, I got offered an amazing part-time job in Minneapolis. The very next day, my future employer emailed me and said that they would like to make the position into a full-time one if I was interested.
I hesitated. Full-time would mean benefits and a better salary. And the job did seem like something I’d be good at: tutoring and counseling college kids with dyslexia. But what about having time for writing? Two years ago I quit my full-time teaching position because I decided writing was more important to me than money and security. Did I still feel that way?
Yes, I decided. I do still feel that way. Writing is my career, for better or for worse. I wrote back and said sorry, I can only commit to part-time. They were disappointed but still glad to have me part-time… I start work today!
Like going through our material belongings, every now again we have to go through the things we hold onto in our minds and hearts: grudges we’re keeping, beliefs we have, goals we’ve set. We have to ask ourselves: do I still believe that? Do I still want that? Is this still the direction I should be going in?
We have to let go of the thoughts or beliefs we don’t need anymore. We can throw that plastic shark away and feel good about it. And sometimes we need to remind ourselves about what is really important. About what needs to be packed in bubble wrap and taken with us no matter where we move to next.