I didn’t think I owned much. After I’d left my apartment in Iowa, giving away my table and chairs, my dresser and couch, I’d moved to Colorado by myself in a minivan. That was my standard: I can’t have much if that’s how I started, can I?
I’m falling into a point of my life where I want own nothing but what I can fit in my Sentra. A few changes of clothes, a few dishes, a book or two. As I’ve started pushing my earthly possessions into the storage closet in my parent’s basement (sorry, Mom) I’ve realized how even with moving frequently and often from one bedroom into another basement room, I’ve managed to accumulate quite the collection of useless items.
There’s so much stuff. A pair of pants I never wear because they fit me funny. Mismatched socks, some with holes in them I keep meaning to throw out. Mugs with chips in them because I’m too sentimental about where they came from to throw them out. A mini ironing board that I use once a year when I’m in a hurry and forgot to pull my shirt out of the dryer right away. An old college textbook that I thought might be useful someday. A stack of papers from a volunteer program I did three years ago.
Somehow I keep carting them around, address to address, state to state.
I now have in my possession less than a dozen outfits, a few blankets, and my computer. That’s about it.
I now have the ability to pack up my life in a heartbeat. Ten minutes, and I can be on the road with no trace that I even existed. I don’t own pets, merely adopting my roommates’ or friends’ animals for the brief moments we share space.
I think I expected owning next to nothing to be more freeing than it actually feels.
I’m a nomad, so my heart has always been ready to go. While I had more of a physical attachment than I was aware of, the emotional connection has always been held with loose fingers. It’s something I’ve encountered with many travelers: we’re quick to befriend, but just as quick to move on. People will ask you how long you’ve been traveling together, and you’ll admit that you just met twelve hours before when you joined in the same walking tour.
You become accustomed to living out of a suitcase for a few weeks or months at a time. Your four shirts are quickly melded to the exact contours of your body, no matter how often you’re able to find a washing machine and soap. But it doesn’t matter, because those four shirts see so many sights and absorb so many smells of so many cultures. The more you absorb, the less rigid you become.
You learn that you’re not always right. You hear how other countries, other religions, other families operate. You adopt some of their world, and they adopt some of yours. Or you toast each other and your differences, knowing some things won’t change. But it doesn’t matter, because you realize on the other side of the table is a human being, not the enemy.
You start holding on to less.
You hold on to fewer strict opinions, more open to discussion and ability to change.
You hold on to fewer languages, realizing the fluidity body language and how your brain won’t recall the right word at the right time.
You loosen your grip on time, allowing for change and fluctuation, last minute ideas and new companions.
You let go of the determination that something you know is the best or the worst, as you come to appreciate the nuances of home and away.
You start demanding that others speak with respect and facts before making blanket statements.
You let go of the concept of home, because there are people and places that hold your heart all across the globe, scattered like dust in the wind.
I own so little. I hold on to so little.
Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Is it just fine in this precise moment?
It is so easy to accumulate. It is so easy to continue to carry things around that have no worth, whether it’s a broken lamp (I just need to find a new pull string!) or a relationship (we’re not that bad for each other), a job (but what would I do if I left?), an apartment (yeah, everything’s gross and it’s really expensive, but it takes so much work!).
I’m so young, but I’m learning the weight of value. Who do I value? What do I value? When I live in a six foot by four foot space, what is worth so much that I am willing to sacrifice those inches? When friends are a dime a dozen, which relationships do I value enough to fight to maintain when I’m “out of sight, out of mind” and have to make an intentional effort?
My external environment now matches my inner self. Perhaps now my inner self will do some spring cleaning as well. Perhaps I can let go of the past, both the good parts and bad. Perhaps I can begin each day in peace and fresh beginnings. Perhaps I can empty myself and go in to each morning in each city with eyes wide open. Perhaps the past can remain there, and only the lessons follow me into the future.
I have no possessions.
I have nothing holding me down.
It’s time to find color in the earth instead of my wardrobe, vibrancy in real relationships instead of the fleeting. Hold on to what has value, release what holds you back, create beauty in each moment.
I didn’t think I owned much. But now I want to own even less.
Now I just want to own myself, to take accountability for my words and actions, and then to move on in freedom.