Monday, June 22, 2015

A philosophical rant on moving

As the young girl and her grandfather loaded the disassembled dresser into the pickup truck, I looked outside from the door, realizing that people like me who are constantly on the move will never get attached to material things. There are people who hold on to things small and big, handed down over generations. Then there are people like me who could, in a month’s notice, nicely fit everything they care for into little boxes, put them in a car, and take off. I was not like that always. But I am like that now. I have moved so many times, that I do not feel attached to most material things anymore.

Two years ago this time, I had moved to a new home with a lot of excitement. I had designed and decorated, hung curtains, hammered shelves, picked up rugs, stuck travel magnets on the fridge, made multiple rounds to my favorite home decoration stores, and had scrubbed, cleaned, dusted, cooked and entertained with a lot of energy. I fell in love with the morning sunlight streaming through the glass doors in the living room.

But then, I have also had days, weeks, and months, when I was left without a place to call my own. I have lived in people’s homes, slept in their couches, and packed my life into little cardboard boxes, taking some of my life with me and giving away most.

Attachments with anything or anyone are but ephemeral, especially for foreigners like me who are constantly on the move. I changed six homes during my eight year stay in the US. I don’t just work in short-term contracts, but I also live life in short-term contracts. Whether it is good or bad, I do not know. But going through this exercise breaks the ego, breaks attachment, and frees you. It makes you buy things that you need, and not things that you want. It makes you appreciate the value of things more than the price of things. Look around you now and see how many things you will be able to let go. Despite being an avid magnet collector, I went up to the Rocky Mountains but never bought a magnet. What is the point? When I look around me, I don’t see many things I absolutely need. Sure, my passport and my degrees and the laptop. And nice little notes I have collected over the years, handwritten letters from friends, wedding invitations and birthday cards, little clothes of babies who are growing up and sending me more notes in their garbled handwritings telling me that they love me, tiny rocks I collected while hiking up the Alps, a little trinket from my trip to Paris, a handwritten recipe scribbled by my dad for days when I feel homesick. Try doing this exercise every year. Try letting go of things, possessions, and attachments every year. Try packing every year, even though you are not moving. You will feel very differently about life, and about people. Free. Uncluttered. Unfettered.

Empty rooms and bare walls echo louder. The house seems even bigger with all the furniture gone. I could easily be practicing football in the living room, or hosting a dance show. And philosophically speaking, when you finally leave, you take nothing with you. Sure you leave a trail of things behind, children and journal papers and bestseller books. But you take nothing, not your wallet, not car keys, not a family picture, not your hard earned degrees. Not even you. My adviser once told me, “We do not own things. We only borrow them in life for a little while. This idea of buying and owning things is an illusion.” I am sure that he has forgotten what he said, but I remember.


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