My mother has always told me that I didn’t inherit the Packing Gene. I have accepted this as truth. Every once in a while, if I don’t have too many items at Trader Joe’s and I have remembered to bring my reusable bags, I am able to fit everything in a way that is functional and maybe even efficient. These times are flukes, I assure you; while they are satisfying, they do not override the necessities crammed into my backpack every time I go to the airport, the number of extra boxes required whenever I move because they are filled haphazardly, or the countless glazed-over looks that I wore when I had to put out new stock at the toy store. My brain doesn’t work that way, unfortunately, which is a real bitch when you’re trying to pack up your belongings—though they are few—for yet another move.
I hate packing. I hate that it has to be a process. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to do it, but if you start too early, you’re going to be pilfering through the little bit of order your just achieved because you still need those one or two things. And either way, you become suddenly aware of how much stuff you have. You find things folded up in corners or shoved into boxes you thought you threw out a long time ago. As someone who is a bit of a hoarder and who attaches some sentimental value to just about everything, this triggers a debate about whether or not to keep it. You’d forgotten about it up to this point, so will you really miss it? On the other hand, now you do remember it, so maybe you might…But regardless of what you keep or throw out, at some point you will have to look at the space you have occupied and filled up with trinkets and trash and whatever for the last x amount of time exactly as it was when you first saw it: empty. Other than a few scuffs in the floorboards, what’s to say you were there at all?
This, I realize, is what I hate about transitional periods. This is what makes me sad. This is why I can’t ever be completely excited to leave a place and get to a new one. In order to get through the transition, to get from point A to point B, I have to pack up. I have to distance myself from everything that has happened over the last x amount of time—like if Instagram had a filter that made the picture blurry. I always plan for it to be just for a little while, just long enough that I can fold up the memories with perfect, careful creases and stack them neatly in my suitcase until I get where I’m going. As a means of emotional survival, I have to temporarily shrink wrap those experiences so that they are mobile. This process is as grueling as trying to fit boxes in the trunk of my car.
But the saddest part, I think, is that when I finally get where I’m going, the things that I took such care to preserve have still changed. Once I unpack them, they feel like things taken out of a time capsule. They are from another life. Maybe they never happened at all.
But no, even that’s not the saddest part—it’s that I know I’ll get over it. I’ll sigh to myself as I examine these things in my new place. I’ll remember everything that affected me deeply and I’ll remember the intensity that I felt, but I won’t actually feel it anymore. Any heat that these gingerly packed items once carried will cool. Maybe there will be some residual warmth, but it won’t be the same. I will be saddened by this for a while, and then that too will fade. I will miss people fiercely for some time, but eventually that ferocity will die down and just be the way things are now.
I guess that’s a good thing. But I keep thinking of the empty space that begins in the corners and the closets and then spreads until the entire apartment/dorm/house/whatever is covered…
Like none of it ever happened. Like you were never there at all.