It's 12:30A.M. on Monday, November 30th, 2015. Today is my twenty-third birthday. I'm staring at a pile of clothes on my living room floor. They look like a collage on the floor, covering space in the most brilliant pattern. Reds and blues, jeans and cotton. It's a beautiful mess, and in the moonlight pouring in from a sky lit window, reality makes the pattern bleed, slipping through time like one of Dali's clocks.
It's time to pack up the suitcase again.
I'm struggling to find closure on a chapter of my life that I'm not sure is over yet. Moving away, and moving on aren't the same thing. Sometimes, no matter how far away you are, you can't escape the demons. The baggage. The suitcase.
I stare at it, laying half open on the floor in the darkness. It's a little over three-quarters full, and I'm beginning to wonder what I should fill the last bit with. More clothes? Cheap costume jewlery? Make-up. Who cares.
As of December third I will have moved three times in the past 6 months, first to New York City (which nearly killed me), then to Seoul, South Korea, and now to Northern California. This sort of thing is something that people who crave structure and comfort could never do. As I age, feeling my bones become more and more overcome with stress, I'm realizing that's all I ever wanted, structure, normalcy. I hate my birthday.
You see, birthdays bring up feelings...thoughts. And that is never good.
This peripatetic life I've carved out for myself fits neatly into a suitcase. I've got my 6 shirts, 5 pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts, assorted socks, hair care products, make-up, toilitries and underthings. Two pairs of shoes, costume jewelry. They're folded neatly, stretching, filling the suitcase up like a stylish coffin. It goes with me wherever I end up: Inchon, Toronto, SFO, CLE. Wherever.
I cried to my mother about all the baggage I had been carrying, the emotional stuff. The kind of stuff that hits you as a kid and never stops punching you as an adult. You get weighed down. You can't help it. Some feelings aren't temporary.
Every "thing" in my life is temporary though. Single servings. Nothing comes in the economy size. It's all one time only. Little cups of coffee with miniature sugars. Miniature water bottles. Little socks wrapped in plastic. Pre-packaged food, microwaveable snacks. Cute little napkins embroidered with different airline logos. Wet naps. Hot towels that come with an expiration date. The fight for elbow room.
When I dream now, I dream of a house, somewhere I can call my own. My room at home is now a catch-all for all my forgotten things. Memories I can't replace, old box springs block the windows.
I think a lot about the last ten years, and how I only have four or five really close friends. I think about all the people I've lost and wronged. I think about my family. I think about the luggage. The baggage. The weight.
Birthdays always get me down. Something about another year, older...and not necessarily wiser. When you grow up or old you don't expect to end up sideways, floundering between regimes, trying to choose which one to throw yourself into. Old or new. The past is all lit up now, you can see the mistakes and the things you overcame, but the future...it's still dark. Nothing makes sense. All you can do is pack your suitcase and go.
The thing about suitcases is that they can only hold so much. Like our minds, when they get too full...we end up paying for it: 100 dollar overage charges and cumbersome drags through airports in different time zones, lack of sleep, racing thoughts. Time slipping away.
But if you pack it just right, with all the ziplock bags and the carefully placed T-shirts, you can roll that thing right into the future. No pressure, no overage fees.
Lose an hour, gain an hour, different time zones for different cultures, different cabin pressures: same suitcase, same person.
I used to think that if you moved, or went somewhere new, you could reinvent yourself. As a little kid I moved 5 times before settling in, and each time I was more and more confused with who I really was. Did this version of me do Karate? Play guitar? Did this version of me like playing with others, or did she keep more to herself. Was she living up to the myth or creating it herself? Sometimes I couldn't figure it out.
But now, I know. Temporary living situations and temporary friends don't have to equal a temporary life. I have to take control of this feeling, this baggage.
Once you realize the past is just a story, you can finally be free of it. It holds no power over you.