The books were the first to go. I thought they’d be the hardest. So much of my concept of self was bound up in them. Floating like motes of dust between the pages. Glued and stitched into the binding.
There were hundreds of them. I’d lugged many of them from Austin to Los Angeles. From Los Angeles to Seattle. From Seattle to Portland. Box after box of heavy books…always the hardest part of moving. But now, faced with the prospect of moving again, this time from the West coast to New York City, I was forced to re-think my attachment to them.
Books were my first love. As a sensitive, artistic kid growing up in rural Texas, a book was like a teleportation device into another world. Another life. But of the hundreds of books on my shelf, there were maybe a handful of books that I treasured enough to re-read multiple times. Most of them, though enjoyable, were read once, and then did nothing except occupy space.
I had this idea that if a stranger were to visit and see Ulysses, Gravity’s Rainbow, Remembrance of Things Past, and all the other, equally impressive titles on my shelf, then they’d somehow be impressed. That my worth would be measured by the books that I’ve read. But of all the strangers that have passed through my various apartments over the years, (and let’s face it, there were plenty of them), none saw my bookshelf and was wowed. It was all just vanity.
Rather than attempt to move hundreds of books to another coast, I purchased copies of the handful of books I knew I’d want to read again for my Kindle and sold the rest to a used bookstore, to let them be read and enjoyed by other people.
I thought it would be impossible to part with them, but once they were gone, I felt…liberated.
So the downsizing continues. All of my music fits on my phone. All of the photos from all of my photo albums have been scanned and fit on a small flashdrive. I got a 3 terabyte external harddrive and am going through the tedious task of ripping all of my hundreds of DVDs onto it. An obscene amount of movies and TV shows will soon fit onto a device the size of a videtape.
Those were the easy things.
The replaceable things.
But other items have proven harder to part with.
The gold and silver sun and moon that Courtney brought me back from Mexico when we lived together in college.
The t-shirt friends gave me on birthdays past, inscribed with phrases like:
“Lance, a Celebration.”
“Lance, the Celebration Continues.”
“Lance History Month.”
“Lance, When Celebrations Attack.”
“Lance, Episode XXIX, Revenge of the Celebration.”
The candleholder I stole from Bryan. The blue hoodie I stole from Anna. The little wooden nightstand I’ve owned my entire life. The one that was in my nursery as a baby. My childhood bedroom, and every bedroom since. The one that’s been painted a dozen different colors, but that has always ended up with me, even though it doesn’t go with anything else I own or hope to own.
These are harder to part with.
But when Carlos points out that it would cost more to ship our things across the country than it would to just buy new things when we get there, I can’t argue with his logic. So I decide to destill the accumulated detritus of my life to what will fit into two suitcases. To relegate certain mementos to the past in order to make room for a future. Together.
When I was younger, I had this idea that if someone were to read the books that I love, listen to the music that really meant something to me, watch the movies that I related to the most, then they’d be able to really understand me. They’d know me. But now that I’m older, I realize they aren’t me, and they aren’t what matters. What really matters is what I do, the people I love, what I hope for, and what I dream. That’s who I am.
The rest are just things.