As I look around my room at the books, mirrors, and scarves I feel dread. ‘Do I really have to go through all this stuff? Do I really have to get rid of it?’ In two months I will be leaving for training to become a Young Adult Missionary through the United Methodist Church for the next three years. I have decided to sell everything I own before my service begins. Everything… This is of course excluding clothing and things I just cannot lose. All of this dread, and yuckiness I feel as I think about sorting it all makes me think about the things that make up a life. I have heard before the phrase, ‘these are the things that make up a life.’ What things? The high school year book? The textbook from the first class you took in college? Your first Bible, rosary, or pictures of your ex boyfriends, are these the things that make up a life? And if they do, what part of my life am I losing when I get rid of them all?
The thing is is that I think this is a very American view: the thought that possessions make up a life. Perhaps I’m wrong (it happens all the time.) As much as I would like to think that I am unaffected by my culture, that I am and individual free thinking hippie girl (as my father would say), I can’t help wanting to hold on to all of this crap. All of the markers, magnets, and rocking chairs. Everything I look at has a memory or the potential for future memories. These things hold a lot of my firsts: kiss, dance, boyfriend, best friend, ironing board, the first time I lived on my own, job, and the list goes on. The things that make up a life. In a culture that places so much value on material goods, what happens to your status when you get rid of it all? Some have told me that they think what I’m doing would be freeing. ‘Oh it must be so great to know that you won’t have that stuff holding you down anymore.’ But those same people, that think it would be soo freeing, I bet wouldn’t be willing to do the same thing. I bet they would never consider getting rid of everything they own, especially with no plan to retain new stuff. We are so stuff and status driven it is hard to think about not having all of these things. It probably doesn’t help that I am a bit of a sentimental person, and since I work with alzheimer’s folks all day I worry about my memory failing me because I’m already naturally forgetful.
Is this the stuff that makes up a life? The answer, no. The things that make up a life are more subtle like a soft breeze, not that your 145″ TV isn’t subtle. You can’t hold onto the things that really make up your life. They are fleeting moments in time, memories of experiences with those you love and the prospects of new memories. That is what makes up a life. All of the firsts, habits, and one time only memories are what we should be clinging to, and we should be clinging hard. I read in a book recently (if I can remember the title I will later share) that the narrator knew a man that carried a notebook with him, and every time this man remembered something he wrote it in his notebook. How remarkable that notebook must be. Could you imagine if your grandparents kept such a notebook? What things would you read in that chronicle of their life? Do you think that they would want to cling to their cars and houses, or to the notebook at the end of the day?
All of my things will be sold at a yard sale on Saturday, and I will be ready for it in one way or another. I have no option, it’s gotta go. This in no way makes me less than super stoked about my new life path, and after I come home on Saturday and see all of my belongings gone with this room so much emptier than today the reality of my new future will be really real. And though I will lose my stuff, I will still remember my first kiss and the plot of Pride and Prejudice.