Whether it’s for an overnight trip or a move to another state, I hate packing. Every decision nearly paralyzes me–should I take these earrings or those? Do I have room for an extra pair of socks? Should I give away this book, though it was my grandmother’s, though I haven’t opened it in years? I want to live simply; I want to save everything, just in case I need it later. I want to get rid of the STUFF that is expensive to move or store, that weighs on my mind so that one of my recurring dreams is of having to move and never quite being able to gather everything. But then I pick up a card, ready to throw it out, and read it again, and see that it was given to me by a friend and it contains words of love, and I travel in memory…and then I put down the card, not having decided what to do with it, and look around me at the unfilled boxes, and despair. I contradict myself, like Whitman, “…I am large–I contain multitudes.”
But I like unpacking. I like opening a box and figuring out where those items should go in the new place. I even like opening my suitcase and putting away the things I took on that trip in their proper places. The decisions have already been made–the stuff was taken with me, and brought back. It is finite, having already been contained. And the old brass figurine of a terrier dog that was my grandmothers comes out of the box and is put on the shelf, clean from having been dusted before it was packed, and I am home.
There’s a lot of talk on the internet these days about being an introvert. There are tests that people take to define them as introverted or extroverted, this or that. Simplistically, introverts don’t like to be around people, and extroverts do. But I–sometimes I like to be around people and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I like to meet new people and sometimes I like to stay home from the party and read. Sometimes I like talking one-on-one, and sometimes I like talking in groups. And aren’t we all, really, like that? Some of both?
I’m not saying labels and categories are completely useless. But I do think we all contradict ourselves. We love to travel, and we love coming home. We hate being on the airplane, but we love glimpsing a new place from above, the mountains and trees so familiar and so strange. We love dreaming of going to Ireland, but hate planning the actual route to drive and where to stay. We feel a bit sorry for ourselves when we’re sitting on the couch for another Friday night watching Netflix, and we dream of doing something so relaxing when we’re standing awkwardly at a stranger’s party with a drink in one hand and a fake smile plastered on.
But this, I’m sure of: I ALWAYS hate packing. It goes too slow and I get nothing done, or it goes too fast and I just KNOW I’m taking something I should have thrown out. Packing makes me feel like I’m shrinking, like I’m losing certainty; I don’t know where that ball of garden twine is, and what if I suddenly need it? And it gives me more reasons to judge myself, because inevitably I’m far less organized than I would like to be, and packing highlights disorganization. It is, by nature, imperfect.
I think now I will put aside the boxes and tape, find my tennis shoes, and take a walk. Later, no doubt, I’ll dream, again, about being unable to gather all of my things–the books that don’t fit in the one box I have with me, the jewelry lying in a tangled mess on the dresser, the lamp I simply cannot carry down the stairs with this load, and the truck already driving away…and then I will wake up, and it will be nearly as awful in the waking world.
And then, finally and too soon, one day I will be unpacking boxes at the other end of my journey, rediscovering the parts of myself and my life that I had to put away for a little while.