The Things We Hold Onto
It took me three days to unpack. I came home from a two week trip to Michigan on a Thursday, and couldn’t bring myself to open my suitcase until Sunday. I knew that when I unpacked that I would have to put things away, not just in my laundry in my hamper, but in places that were on the verge of overflowing. My stuff no longer fits in my apartment, and I knew that in order to put stuff away, I would first have to take stuff out. And I dreaded taking stuff out.
I hold onto things. I hold onto scraps of paper that I drew a nice, well-balanced 4 or g or capital R on. There are ticket stubs that don’t have my name on them tucked away in a drawer; photos and a painting from someone who is no longer in my life, hidden in my closet. There’s a small mason jar-esque shot glass with a handle that I pocketed from a bar I used to frequent and a lowercase f that I snuck in my purse from a sign on a fitness studio in Sweden. There are piles of type specimens, birthday cards, and medical printouts that I never look at, but can’t bring myself to throw away because, what if I need them? There’s the tattered chambray I wore in Paris and the dress that is almost certainly too short for me at 26, but for some reason was perfect on my 22-year-old body that has barely changed.
Lately, when I’ve visited my parents, I’ve started to go through my old stuff to try and throw things away. The home I grew up in wasn’t big, but we moved there 24 years ago and every nook and cranny is filled. My mother collects trinkets, although she swears that she’s started to get rid of things. She reminds me that one day she’ll be gone and my father will be gone and that I’m going to be the one stuck going through the entire house to get rid of things. There are a lot of things. Might as well start now.
I’ve moved a lot in the last eight years, and nearly every time I’ve downsized. My parents’ home, to a college dorm, to more dorm rooms and sublets to, finally, an apartment of my own in St. Louis. My beautiful one-bedroom, to a tiny room in a group house in D.C., to a large room with a walk-in closet in a gorgeous little bungalow just a block inside the district limits. From the bungalow, I moved to a large-for-New-York-but-still-smaller-room in Bushwick, where I’ve made a home over the past two years. It’s the longest I’ve been anywhere since my parents’ house, and I’ve slowly accumulated enough to fill my space and more. My stuff has leaked into workspaces, yoga studios, boyfriends’ apartments, and I don’t discover how much of my life resides in each place until I’m forced to move.
Two weeks ago, I started a new job, my dream job. I left behind another dream job in a dream studio, the job that I thought would be—and was—the perfect stepping stone for who I was as a person and as a designer. I grew so much at Point Five, and was still growing, but I also knew that what I wanted to do next meant having to step away. It was heartbreaking. I moved my stuff out of my desk over several days so it wouldn’t be so sparse, starting with the neglected nooks and crannies so it wasn’t immediately visible that I was leaving. A poem here, ticket stubs here, two years worth of weekly agendas: memories of a girl that I know so well but doesn’t exist anymore. Two years is a short time, but so much has happened. When I started working at Point Five, it was June 2016. It was a different time. Everything changed.
It’s been over two weeks since I came home and there are still piles of paper lining the floor of my bedroom, collecting dust. It’s one thing to take stock of everything, it’s another thing entirely to deal with them. While the piles will probably, eventually be aggregated into one and stuffed into my desk, I still have the hope that I can let go of the things that no longer serve me and build the space for the things that do. But it takes time and effort to build that capacity. It’s something that I have to choose.
All my love,