Q: Do you ever read self-help? Anything you recommend?
A: I’m a self-help queen, dedicated to continuous improvement. I read books about problems I...
If you had been at the StorQuest on Sunset about a week ago, it might have seemed like any ordinary weekday mid-morning. The weather was nice, and the building was nearly empty. Had you gone into the basement, however, you would have heard 2 things: AC/DC’s “Shook Me All Night Long,” and the sounds of my sobbing.
Yes, it had finally happen. I had finally achieved that true paramount moment of Twentysomething, crying in front of your storage unit before a big move. Our “stuff”— the life-things we’ve accrued over the years— often seem like they’ll be so easy to throw out. When I first started my relocation, I really did plan on pitching out most of the papers and pictures I had considered to be “sentimental.” What did I need them for? I had my memories. I was moving to paradise. I had already seemingly turned my face fully forward to the future. The past, especially in the past few months, had been tumultuous and occasionally frustrating. Why would I bother dwelling?
Yet, dwell I did. There’s something entirely sobering (in an unfortunately-“Eat, Pray, Love” sort of way) that most of your life now fits into a tiny storage unit. I had spent 24 year s in Southern California, and the past seven of them in Los Angeles. What did I have to show for it? I was (temporarily) unemployed, single, and living in a tiny sublet in the middle of Silverlake that was mostly in still-boxed shambles. As I’ve mentioned in a number of posts before, I had gone from the girl with her life planned out to the detail (Los Angeles for life, marriage in the next 5 years after getting my PhD) to the girl shipping off to an island and deciding if she needed to keep the picture of her and her rebound-ex (she does not). The contents of my life had not only been wrapped and boxed, but now needed to be unpacked and sorted to decide whether or not they were worthwhile.
Now, for the most part, a lot of this process has been intensely gratifying and growing. There’s something about looking back onto your life and seeing how far you’ve come that’s great. However, when combined with the emotional stress and semi-guilt of leaving my family for the first time (which I was choosing to suppress and ignore, which is always a fantastic idea), leaving my friends behind, and the emotional charge of HATING PACKING AND UNPACKING AND REPACKING SO MUCH OH MY GOD, it added up to general dismay.
So, I looked into that dark storage unit, AC/DC blaring on a radio station through the speakers, and just broke down. I sobbed. Not even lady-like, quiet sobbing. No, I was at hyperventilating, am-I-having-a-panic-attack?-level sobbing. I buried my face in the crook of my arm and scurried away from the unit like it was a poisonous snake. My back hit the wall, and I slumped down, still sobbing. What was I doing? Everything and everyONE that I loved, and that actually loved me, that actually put up with my ridiculousness, was here in Southern California. Why was I moving 3,000 miles away to the middle of the Pacific Ocean?!
The guy that runs that StorQuest is a mid-30’s Latino man who served 2 tours in Europe. He’s been generally friendly and helpful, and nicknamed me “Tiny Terror” or just “Terror” as he’s seen me the past few weeks. Apparently when I called the unit I was so intent in my questioning that I “sounded like the baddest, most intense woman in need of storage,” but when he saw me he was amused that I was “so much smaller” than he expected (look, I’ve broken 5 feet finally, okay?).
He walked in, and stopped. “Terror? You okay?”
I shook my head, and took a few breaths. “No. Yes. Yes, I’m fine. I’m fine. It’s just… it’s just a lot I guess.”
He stood at the end of the hallway, giving me my space. “How much longer you have?”
“About a week,” I replied.
“Plenty of time,” he responded immediately. “Look, just take it a step at a time. That’s all you can do.”
I’ve been blessed to have a lot of really smart and amazing people come into my life. Especially in these past few years. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I continually count my blessings.
These past few days have been a flurry of tears, deep talks, and allowing relationships to not end, but change. My beautiful friend Amanda recently wrote about how moving, in a number of ways, can be cleansing. Yes, in some ways it could be a form of “running away” from our problems, but it can also be a way for us to look back and make sure we’re holding on to things that are really important to us. That, in letting them go, we see what they will blossom into.
I’ve spent the last few days (and especially the last 48 hours) worried that, perhaps, I made the decision to move out here too quickly. That in a flurry of “Oh-my-God-it’s-time-to-change,” I didn’t consider all that I was leaving behind. Saying good-bye to my friends and family, that fear became even more present.
On the plane ride over, though, I read something from C.S. Lewis that a friend had quoted (or “truncated,” perhaps) in a note to me:
“The only things we can keep are the things we freely give…what we try to keep for ourselves is just what we are sure to lose.”
That’s when it hit me: if I stayed in LA simply to stay close to friends or family, or to a life that I had created (but, perhaps, no longer was what I needed it to be), I would likely end up losing it. The feeling of confusion and desire for something new would likely push me to make choices I would regret; the attempt to find something to hold on to could see me push the things I loved most farther away.
So I closed my eyes and, with a heart filled with joyful love, breathed a sigh of gratitude and good-bye to my life as I had known it. A few minutes later, wheels touched ground in Oahu, and I looked out the window onto a certainly magnificent vista. The first thing that popped into my head? I swear, it was my my mother’s face, smiling, and my father’s voice, saying:
“Welcome home, kiddo.”
Tears welled up in my eyes, and then I smiled too.