We moved almost three months ago, our third move since May 2012. I’ve gotten pretty good at unpacking. It didn’t take long. What I have forgotten how to do is settle in. The only things left to unpack are boxes of books and mementos I couldn’t throw away.
This weekend, I opened a box of notebooks and binders. Some of those crazy things have been moving with me since I lived in the house on Circle Drive with the people who’ve known me the longest.
Notes from classes I liked. And a few I didn’t.
Most of the contents can be traced back to college (which ended 11 years ago). But, they’ve always been in a box. And always out of sight.
In my one-bedroom apartment, I stored them where the washer and dryer should have been, along with other boxes of things I didn’t know what to do with.
When I got married, they were hauled upstairs to Harry’s unfinished second floor. On one side, Harry’s tools. The other: All my boxes. There they stayed until we sold our house and moved to India.
When we moved to India and condensed our possessions to six suitcases, this box sat untouched in a storage unit for almost three years.
Finally, it made its way along with what else was left of our belongings in a cube on the back of a truck from Tennessee to Washington state, delayed by one day because of a snowstorm in Salt Lake City.
By the time it got here, its plastic outer shell was broken into pieces.
Now, before you judge me too harshly, please remember: I’ve gotten rid of a lot of excess in the last four years. I sold my Snowbabies in a garage sale. I threw out old birthday cards that my mother couldn’t. I sold furniture and mattresses. A house! I have let go of “But one day I might…” more times than I can count.
And, somehow I still have more boxes like this than I’d care to admit. (Especially to the people who helped us move!)
I can’t believe I’ve dragged these notebooks from place to place. But, they’re filled with words. World History. Shakespeare. Philosophy of Education. Adolescent Psychology. Ethnic Literature. French.
Today I decided to recycle them. All of them.
Those notebooks represent years of work. Some hard. Some even harder. They remind me of a time when I was successful. Of a few times when I failed—at least by my standards.They remind me of dreams that haven’t come true. Not everything has happened like I thought it would.
I don’t like getting rid of things. I like stumbling upon that box every now and then and remembering. I’ve often wondered if getting rid of it means it never really happened.
But my perspective is changing. I’m learning not to hold onto things too tightly — even people.
That box is from a time when academics mattered more than anything and we were not yet dependent on digital storage.
I hate feeling cluttered by memories I haven’t chosen. Memories I don’t want to keep. And, every time I open that box I have to return to a place I may not want to go.
Keeping this box means denying that a season of my life is over. It means denying grief, but I’m learning that grief isn’t all bad. It means I’m moving on. It means there’s something next. Something yet to come.
Recycling the box means I’m saying goodbye, yes. But I’m also moving forward. I’m not living in the shadow of past hurts and regrets. Or even past successes I can’t repeat.