Breaking Up with Myself

My departure date is about a month away, my lease is up at the end of the month, and moving out of South Carolina has begun in earnest. But I shouldn’t say “moving out,” really–it’s actually more like “divesting myself of almost everything I own.”

Extreme, perhaps, but with only a pack on my shoulders (and a little space in storage offered by a friend from church), I’m slimming down in terms of my worldly possessions. But it’s a strange process.

With my stuff strewn across the floor, or boxed to give away, or being carted out the door, almost every last piece of it, I feel like I’m breaking up with myself.

And in a way, I am.

What am I without the roles I’ve created for myself here? Who am I without that book that reminds me my first year in grad school or that syllabus that came together just right in my first semester as an adjunct professor? Where do the memories go without things to jog them–that poster my friend bought me from the Globe Theatre in London, or the piano I bought myself as a graduation present for surviving grad school?

When I told my mom I was selling all of my things, she sighed and said, “You and your brother. No sentimental value for anything.”

And maybe it’s true. Aren’t there things we’re supposed to pass on? But who will want these things when I’m old or gone? They are my memories, not theirs. And as someone who doesn’t necessarily intend to have children, it’s not like I’ll have progeny who will want them.

They’re just things, after all.

And yet, I see my former self slipping through my fingers–books, films, papers, that research project I always intended to do, all those things I planned to cook with that pan I never used, those spices I bought but never made anything with.

On one hand, memory. On the other, regret for things undone.

Isn’t that the line we walk when we’re depressed? Feelings about the past and future trapping us anywhere but the present?

I sometimes feel like the boy in the starfish parable (though maybe with a more public-health-type model–building a structure to keep the starfish out to sea or something), but unlike him, I’m not okay with not being able to throw all the starfish back in. It’s not enough, and so many of us are throwing starfish or working to stop the tide, and yet, here it comes again and again with more of them.

I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve done enough or given enough. I tend to hold myself to impossible standards, though, and feel compelled to project completion, so leaving with the “job undone” will be hard.

Is hard.

But as my friends have said, “The work will be here when you get back.”

I look at the piles of things around my room. I simultaneously have the feeling of wanting to hold on to it all and wanting to burn it all, erase it–shed these earthly traces. I wonder what would come out of the ashes. I wonder where my heart will be in a year, if the wounds will be closer to being healed. I wonder if I’ll be able to make space for myself again, or if I’ll get lost once more–to a project or the cause or the five million entrepreneurial ideas I have about making a living while on the road.

I hope to return to my soul. To my creativity. To a present that is beyond ambition, beyond ownership, beyond competition. Beyond clinging to the past while straining for the future. And to maybe find my way to a new kind of calling–or a new way of doing an old one. And to be ready to embrace it with both arms flung open wide.

But first, I’d better clean up this floor and sell the rest of my stuff.



Saturday, April 23, 2016 ~ 8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

My Front Porch

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Check out things I’m selling in advance/outside of the sale here.

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