Last night I started packing up my apartment. I know; I’m late. I am extraordinarily good at procrastinating and this time around, it’s almost as though I am testing the limits. I’m not doing it on purpose. Or am I? I can be a sneaky little thing sometimes.
I started with my bar cart. Hell yes, I fit a bar cart into a pint-sized apartment! I’m an adult. I wrapped up the decanters have been passed down from my parents to my brother; that my brother gave to me (or are they borrowed? Sooorry). To that box I added all the little bits and bobs that I never truly realized were making my house a home. Memories of my loved ones, really: my place card from the wedding; the candle sticks carefully selected for me in Copenhagen; the pear shaped ash tray I found with my mother in my favorite thrift store. Little glass birds I got from my aunt for Christmas; a bottle stopper from my friends; a cigar box with my grandfather’s handwriting on it.
I moved on to the next semi-easy step: the gallery wall. A wall that literally only came to be because I ran out of space to store the work I was creating. When in doubt, go up. I took it all off the wall and carefully wrapped it up. Into a box it went. I walked back into the living room and was struck by its emptiness. Struck by how one empty wall can suck the soul out of a place.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I had a massive lump in my throat.
Geez. You’ve talked the big talk, you’ve told everyone you’re ready. In fact, you’ve been wanting to pack this place up for weeks, you’ve been saying you feel ready to just get it over with and go forth. And now you’re in a dusty living room, screwdriver in hand, wondering whether you can walk the walk?
If the past stories have not made it clear enough, let me lay it out for you: I have no qualms about crying. I am very in tune with my tear ducts. They are my best friends, whether I like it or not. I cannot control them, and now that I am in my twenty seventh year, I finally know that I don’t always want or need to.
Yea? Okay. Phew, glad that’s out of the way.
Where were we? Oh, yes. Recap: blank wall in the living room, lump in Nicole’s throat.
Well, you already know what happens next. I cried. I started to tear up a little bit, and I had to run through the events again. It’s something I’ve done many times by now and something I’ll probably continue to do until the 20th. I run through the sequence of events that got me here, and I remind myself that this seeming insanity is not so insane at all. With each step I recover I remember that yes, this all makes sense (to me). I remember that yes, it’s the right step (for me). That yes, we need to do this (for me). I began to sob anyway.
Because the thing is, just because something is the right step, just because it’s a thing you want to do, or a thing you feel you need to do, that does not make it easy. I’ve alluded to this before, but I feel like this is such an essential point that it needs reiterating. I will iterate and reiterate this as many times as we need. Just because it’s right does not make it easy. In fact, my experience is that the things that are the most right, the most “you need to do this,” are the absolute hardest. And.that.is.a.good.thing. Hard is not bad, difficult is not evil. It’s just not easy.
So, I let myself cry.
By this point a part of me was thinking that maybe I’d leave some other things up – C’mon, it might be nice. Who wants to wake up in a room with blank walls? Not me. Yea, you don’t have to do everything in one evening. Leave up the yellow painting, then this place will still feel like home. Leave up the wallpaper, then this place will still hold your memories.
I took it all down.
I took it down because I decided that the best thing I can do now is press on. I took it down because in my case, the sooner this apartment is a symbol of the new things to come, the better. I took it down because I have spent enough time wondering whether this is all “right.” Now I am moving forward because I have the strongest conviction that it is.
I kept crying. Hell yes, I let myself cry. But while I cried, I took down the yellow painting. Ahaaa, looks less like home already. While I cried, I took down the wallpaper. Wow, I’ve never seen walls so bare.
I took it down and I saved a piece of the wallpaper. Another thing you’ll learn about me is that if anything, I am a romantic – no matter how hard I tried to convince myself in my early twenties that I was not. So, today I cried because I put away my little bits and bobs. I cried because I took down the art that I made in part for this very space. I cried because I took down the wallpaper that I once put in my bicycle basket and cycled all the way home from the hardware store. I cried fondly, thinking of the countless Youtube videos I watched trying to figure out how to the wallpaper up. Those seams matched up perfectly, okay?
I also laughed. I laughed at how I was crying over holes in a wall and blank empty spaces. I laughed at the fact that I am going on the most stunning adventure I’ve ever been on. I laughed at how I am the absolute most grateful human for having this opportunity at all, and yet here I am, crying. I laughed and laughed and laughed.
And now I’m writing about it. Because if there’s anything I love to do, it’s to remind people that our feelings are valid. Last night I cried. Hard. I also laughed. I laughed a hysterical belly-shaking laugh. And the most important thing here is that both of these reactions were oh-so valid. They always are, so please, please make room for them.
It’s valid to cry even though packing up a perfect studio apartment to go on an even more perfect trip is a first-world problem. It’s also valid to laugh at that, knowing my own laughter is needed, knowing my own laughter is not meant as invalidation.
I laugh-cried and I cleaned up the dust. I also saved that little piece of the wallpaper.
I saved a snippet and tucked it into the box that now houses my art. And next year, when my things reappear from out of storage, I will frame that piece of wallpaper and put it up in my new home, wherever she may be.