Three weeks ago, we packed ourselves up in North Carolina and moved back home to Mississippi, to the place where we were children, to begin our lives as grown-ups. We had plenty of advance notice that we’d be leaving, but we were still in a bit of a frenzy the last few weeks coordinating job end dates and start dates, juggling two vehicles and a U-Haul, and racing to fill our new collection of moving boxes with our belongings before Kingsley claimed them for herself. In part because we were at a major life transition and in part because we were too lazy to lug all our junk across four states, we took this as a change to purge our closets and shelves of the things we didn’t use or didn’t need anymore.
It was fun to go through things and remember and fun to think of other people creating new memories with this stuff or with the money it garners at a thrift store to support their ministries. These things have been so sweet in their time, but I’m ready to let them go before they spoil. C.S. Lewis wrote about this in Perelandra–the next good thing. It’s like going back to your college town after you and all your friends have graduated. It’s a little sad, because it’s not home anymore. That season has passed, and it’s not how you remember it. It doesn’t feel the same, and you come to realize it was never the place; it was the people.
Yes, letting go of some of my things was hard, but honestly, there was such relief in reducing our baggage in every sense of the word. As I debated over what to do with an old high school t-shirt that had somehow survived three moves without ever being worn, it hit me. Stuff or people, that’s what it all boils down to. Which do I value more? Am I going to feel uncomfortable inviting people into my home because I have too much stuff taking up space, stuff I didn’t have time to wash and put away, or that the cat knocked over AGAIN, or that hasn’t yet (ever?) found a good storage spot? Am I going to be so worried about things getting broken or stolen that I don’t let people enjoy them? Am I going to be more loyal to things than I am to fellow human beings? Are my purse strings stronger than my heartstrings?
With that as my guiding question a lot of stuff found its way to the PTA and Durham Rescue Mission thrift store, the consignment store, or the dump. A fair amount will be re-purposed or spruced up with Pinterest tutorials to avoid more garbage and buying the same thing again brand new. And the things that stayed have stayed for a reason. They have a story and a use. It’s better to prioritize, to invest in things that last. My little sister has always understood this. When I was blowing my babysitting money on hundreds of cheap plastic earrings at Claire’s, she’d save hers up and get one really nice thing from Express that she could wear for years. At the time I didn’t get it–why would you get one thing when you could get, like, twenty? Now I see her wisdom. She wanted to invest in things that would serve their purpose well and stick around long enough to gather some character.
In going through all my stuff and deciding what to pack, what to donate, and what’s ready to be thrown away, I’ve been deciding what parts of myself to take into this new life. Who would I be? What accessories go with the Elizabeth moving into a new space?
There’s a certain anything-could-happenness to this season of in between. As we were wrapping up and reminiscing, I couldn’t help but daydream a little.
I took one surfing lesson over the Memorial Day weekend on the Bald Head Island, our last visit to a North Carolina beach before leaving the state, and all of the sudden I was Googling “southern surf spots” (there are none, FYI) and checking the price of beginners’ foam surfboards on Amazon. I envisioned a little yoga studio on the beach. I could be a yogi surfer chick in Hawaii in retirement. When I burnout after years of loyal service to Jackson and the church, I’ll buy a one way ticket and board the flight with nothing but my yoga mat, a surf board, and flip flops. I’ll be like that girl all over the Internet who moved to the Caribbean to work at an ice cream shop to escape her high-stress corporate existence. When you’re between things that feels much more attainable. On a random Tuesday it’s harder to imagine.
Then again, it’s also less attractive. On a random Tuesday you get to finish a project or meet a need at work. You get to have dinner with a friend or partner who loves you and plans to keep on doing it forever. You get to snuggle up with your overly affectionate cat and watch the latest episode of Younger on Hulu. You get to play with your niece and go to a yoga class and add a few more pieces of string and twig to the little nest you’ve been building to call home. And with the purging of the things that don’t matter, it contains only things that do, little snippets of hope and potential “like eggs alive with the promise of birds.”
Turns out, we packed a bit of that anything-can-happenness with us, too.