Wednesday, June 9, 2010

So I guess this is real after all

As most of you know, I'm leaving Chile in a few weeks. Come to think of it, though, I wouldn't be surprised if many of you didn't know, because I don't talk or write about it much. That's because I'm in denial.

When people ask me what I've been up to since I quit my job, I generally respond that I've been preparing for the big move. The truth of this statement depends on your perspective. If you consider taking meandering bike rides through the city and staring wistfully at the Andes preparation, then yes, I've been preparing. However, if your idea of preparation includes sorting through and packing the physical evidence of the past three years of my life, then I have not been preparing at all.

This afternoon, a friend stopped by my house and took away some of my stuff. His haul included a giant paper mache lamp, magenta curtains and some Saint Patrick's Day costume glasses. Although I'd been emotionally preparing myself for the inevitable for quite some time, his visit was my first move toward initiating the physical process of leaving.

I think I know why I've been putting it off. Ever since I was little, I've been extremely sensitive to the sentimental value of objects. I'm not a big shopper and would not consider myself materialistic; however, when an object represents an important moment or period in my life, I find it incredibly difficult to let go. For example, I've held onto dingy shoes because they've tread foreign soil and notebooks from high school because they're a testament to who I was at that point in my life. When I see hoarders interviewed on TV, I frequently understand exactly what they're talking about when they explain their reasons for refusing to throw out items everyone else finds useless.

Don't worry: My house isn't packed with empty soup cans and floor-to-ceiling stacks of old newspapers. I've been so mobile over the past few years that I've had to learn to look past my emotional attachment to things when the time comes to move out. This doesn't mean it's easy. Although I consider my tendency to find magic in places and everyday objects a gift when it comes to creative activities like writing and photography, it can be a curse when it comes to moving forward.

I think I was so afraid to begin sorting because I felt that doing so would be like watching a slow parade of significant moments in the Chilean life I'm leaving behind. As the process continues, I know that practically every item I unearth will embody a memory that I'll be afraid will vanish forever if I don't hang onto the object itself.

I've had to try to make myself comfortable with the idea of forgetting. After all, if I refuse to let some things escape my brain, there won't be as much room to remember the most important aspect of my life in Chile: the people who have made it what it is. I like to think that every time those people draw their magenta curtains or put on their sparky green sunglasses, they'll remember me, too.

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