In preparation for this trip I have to turn my attention to the monumental amounts of what-was-once-important-and-is-now-inconsequential crap, and decide what will stay and what will go. It’s a surprisingly agonizing process. To keep or not keep every knick-knack given to me by a well meaning relative? To keep or not to keep every insipid, but rather entertaining, journal I could never before stomach throwing away? Piles of meditations on love and pain, O! the agony of being fourteen. I found poems and letters to former flames, all of them beseeching and sad or lost and angry. All of the good ones, filled with boisterous humor and detailed illustrations, were handed over to said flames years ago.
I have photo albums full of friendships and relationships whose marks I’d thought would last. Most didn’t, of course, because what is life without a couple of metaphorical fiery crashes and a few brittle, wispy declines (for subtlety)? Character-building heartbreak is not for the weak. I don’t know what the point is of keeping these reminders, but I think I feel something when I hold them in my hands. A vibration of the most mental sort: sense memories, sharper than reality, shooting through my fingers and up my arms and into my brain. Flashes of barefoot walks along moss-covered trails beneath the rough canopy of redwood trees; excursions into the pavement jungles of San Francisco and Berkeley with the scent of exotic foods and incense directing the path. Loud concerts in dark spaces with sweaty dancers and drunken punks lining the walls. Best of all, the shared happiness of a moment unscarred by human error and heartache. I can’t let them go, these sensory trips trapped on Kodak paper. I only chuck them in the “keep” pile and hope they don’t sprout mold in storage.
On I dig.
I have to consider what I may or may not be like in 3 months or 3 years. This seems impossible but I must take this medicine if I am ever going to make it through these piles of stuff. Because we have no set dates for this trip, eventually I am going to need a job again and I can’t re-purchase every material good when I come back. We quit our jobs. We’re selling what we can. I’m only just now appreciating the realness of this reality, and it is one that requires Spartan-like configurations and a deeper appreciation of that stupid “Live Simply” bumper sticker. Picturing the kind of job I might need and the kind of abode I will want upon my return is pivotal in my stuff-saving decision making and not a little depressing. So, to help pare down my earthly possessions without getting rid of anything that might be useful, I have to “envision the future.” In other words, what the hell kind of grown up do I plan to be?
I think long and hard about what I have to offer the world. I am a singer, an artist, and a writer, all auto-didactically achieved. Thus, I haven’t done much in my life to qualify working somewhere other than retail. These days, if you aren’t 19 with the face of a 12 year-old and the brains of a 7 year-old prodigy, then that option’s a bit shaky, anyhow. My latest job, the one I enjoyed for six and a half years, came to me by pure luck through a former art teacher who I think had less faith in my art than in my ability to answer phones (and thank goodness, because I’d be penniless if he thought I had talent). It was a wonderful job, life changing in many ways and always inspiring. But not one that could be repeated, due to its rarity and the fact that it will be taken by another once I return. I have to assess my situation from a realistic stand point: I never finished college, and I homeschooled through junior high and high school. The former is an issue all on its own but the latter doesn’t rack me up any popularity points, non-denominationally speaking. I am not religious, nor do I have plans to break away from the confines of government via holing up in some woods with some shotguns. The concept of homeschooling for homeschooling’s sake is absolutely alien to the rest of the world. When I mention that I homeschooled, everyone looks at me like I am about to spout fundamentalist hellfire or whip out some pamphlets on the joys of living in an armed citadel in Idaho. But I digress.
I have parted with many beloved things already, including the first-ever furniture I bought for myself: a bookshelf and a bed. In a Two Buck Chuck-fueled moment I nearly gave all of my clothing worth any actual money away to a girl I barely knew. It’s down to the stupid shit, the towels and the cups and all that paperwork the government tells you to hang on to for 3,000 years. I think of the sheer amount of space on this planet, space that is reserved for the sole purpose of “putting things” and I shudder at the thought of adding to it.
But I also really, really like my Martha Stewart 70%-off fire sale flannel sheets. So.