Life into Boxes


I may have a sweater fetish, I’ve been forced to admit.


Packing for the move to Jakarta means boxing up a lot of cold-weather gear for long-term storage. While I’ve long been aware that I’ve long used the sweater as a classroom staple, I did not suspect its dominance of my closet until I was forced to box up my Missouri life. This week I’ve had to confront my obsession with sweaters.


Something about packing away our possessions forces us to evaluate a lifetime of choices.


It also leads to some fascinating choices of the present—I kept the lucha-libre mask my brother brought me from Mexico, and junked tubs full of term papers written for two college degrees.  I stored my basketball ankle braces and pitched a box full of birthday cards dating back at least fifteen years.


But moving trans-continent on a no-room-for-error budget is a tricky issue—the wife and I are carrying everything we’ll own in our suitcases.  That means finding new homes for the rest of our possessions.  One such “new home” is the dumpster.  How much of our life is really destined for the dumpster?  How much of what I work for now will end up scrapped?  What is it that will last?


For me, though, the purging of possessions and the cleansing of long-cluttered closets is one of the great things about a change in scenery.  I want to live lean.  I think I’ll like a life simplified to fewer things used most often.


Thoreau praised a life limited to stuff in a rucksack.  Thoreau also carried vials of yeast in his pants pocket, raked a forest floor into a bean patch for his sustenance, sported truly psychedelic facial hair, and single-handedly inspired two of the most successful peaceful-protest movements of the last century that changed the course of political and social history here in North America and on the Subcontinent.


I also came across stacks of old journals—records of teenage and twenty-something angst over girls and the future and oh so many lines devoted all to myself, myself that I pity anyone who ever is forced to read the scribbling mess of my handwriting bleeding through those pages.  Vanity, vanity—I couldn’t bring myself to toss them.  Are we all under the illusion that our lives will somehow end up meaningful to masses and our personal stories be sought out by historians?  On the plus side, though, I relived, there on the cluttered floor of a dusty bedroom, a play-by-play on the pursuit of my future wife.


Those were dated seven years ago; next Friday we’ll celebrate five years of marriage. And all my former worry over where to move and what to work in has somehow cleared up, leaving me six years into a teaching career I’ve enjoyed much more than I initially suspected.


There’s always the stress of parting with the sentimental, always the joy of the overdue vetting, always the wonder at what artifacts accumulate, but packing your life into boxes. . .


I’m not sure how to finish that sentence. . .  reveals unsuspected wardrobe obsessions?

4 thoughts on “Life into Boxes

    1. Me too! My wife and I are really looking forward to it; we both love to travel, and everyone we’ve been in contact with has great things to say about living and working there. We should be there in… about a month from today, I guess.


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