Quirky as this sounds, now and then I take a strange comfort in mentally tallying up all my earthly possessions and picturing how they’d Tetris into my Honda Civic.
Some feel secure when they settle into a stable home for the long haul. I, in contrast, find that my sense of security lies in my life’s portability. Knowing I can pick up and move at a moment’s notice reassures me that I’m in control of my own fate. Professional failures and personal setbacks—they can’t define me if I’m free to drive off and start fresh elsewhere.
So when a wave of anxiety threatens to wash over me mid-workday, I turn to that mental image of loading up the car with every item I own. I know everything would fit. It did before, and it will again someday, maybe someday soon.
Of course, a year has passed since I last filled my Civic to the brim for a relocation, and you might think I’d have acquired enough stuff since then to have problems next time around. True, I got some old furniture for my new place when I arrived. But when the day comes that I next move, those items will be freecycled back out into the world and relisted for Craig to sell. I’m not in the business of clinging to things.
As a result I can count just three acquisitions that will need to fit in along with the rest.
- A guitar.
- A tent.
- A waffle iron.
The guitar is a beauty, all slick golden wood and twangy metal—not that I do it justice with my fumbling. Six weeks after it took up residence in a corner of my apartment I’d only managed to advance from “Smelly Cat” to a solo approximation of “Hey Jude.” This in no way diminishes my love for it: my guitar lets me be bad at something. It lets me get better at something. It distracts me from all the bad and better things out there over which I have no control.
The tent is also a beauty. It’s small and rather rattley, but it does the job: it kept me dry on a drizzly Second Beach last summer and warm on the snow-dusted lower slopes of Mount Rainier toward fall. At the moment it’s neatly tucked into its pouch, waiting out the winter winds. Camping season re-opens May 1. Weekend getaways are already in the works.
And the waffle iron. Surely the waffle iron needs no explanation.
When that rising anxiety drives me to drive away from it all and I pause to mentally repack my life, I see these three acquisitions, and their accidental cumulative significance makes me smile: 1. a creative challenge, 2. shelter, and 3. food. (My hierarchy of needs might not match Maslow’s, but it suits me fine.)
Seeing these three reminds me that at the end of the day, no matter what fears and stresses have upset me, I have everything I need in life. I’ve always had my clothes and my car, yes, but look what I’m capable of doing now: I can pluck out a song, shield myself from the elements, and whip up some breakfast-for-dinner.
More than that, I know that wherever I go next, these capabilities will accompany me, tucked safely in the back seat. They fit. I’ve pictured it.
Which brings me back to my need for portability.
At first glance it might make me seem flighty, as though I’d prefer to run away at a moment’s notice rather than take responsibility for my fears and flaws. I’ve wondered whether this is the case, and it’s an uncomfortable thought. That’s not who I want to be. I want to confront my challenges head-on, not flee from them—and is that what I’m craving when I picture my packed-up car ready to get out of Dodge?
Happily, my short list of new tools helps me think otherwise.
What I want is not escape from commitments. What I want is the assurance that, no matter what comes my way (or which way I go), I can be self-sufficient. And looking back, the fact that I chose to add these few objects to my lot tells me something about myself: I’ll stay creative. I’ll weather the storms. I’ll nourish my needs.
The truth is I’m profoundly happy to be where I am right now, and it’s entirely possible I’ll stay in this studio apartment for years to come. Seattle is an exciting city. My friends here are wonderful; here, I feel loved, issues and all. As far as I can predict, my car may stay parked on the side streets of Wallingford for the next decade.
So believe me when I say that despite my pack-it-all-up daydreams, I don’t need to move constantly. I just need to know I have the option, and that I’ll have the resilience to thrive through it all.
When I’m ready—not when I’m prompted by a desperate desire to flee my fears, but when I’m conscientiously choosing a change of scenery—I know that the guitar, the tent, and the waffle iron will come with me.
Until then, I’m happy to have them unpacked in the little home I’ve settled into for now.
With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?