Have you ever experienced something in your life, a mundane or simple task, and thought “This is a metaphor”? That happened to me this weekend while dealing with my storage unit. And this simple task, something that any well-adjusted person would accomplish and then move forward without giving a second thought, managed to transform me into a vessel into which a cocktail of anxiety, regret and sorrow must be poured. Since you are not me, explanations are probably in order…
I’ve had this storage unit since 2002, after my sophomore year of college. Having it that long has been a mistake both financially and emotionally. Over the years, it’s existed as a vague annexation of my former lives. All of my theatre/teaching paperwork is there, along with furniture that I only used briefly, action figures, clothes, books and garbage. I used to visit the unit every couple of months, to pick up or drop off and then …I stopped. I didn’t clean it out in order to save myself the monthly fee, despite the pragmatic suggestions from my wife and mother. I just forgot about it. I stopped visiting it, because to me, it was easier to continue to pay the money every month than it was to crack the seal on what had become a time capsule of my past. In 2011, my Jeep was stolen, taking with it the only key to opening the unit. This bought me more time.
It’s now 2013. My wife and I are moving. For reals this time. Not just across town, but several states away. To begin a new life filled with new experiences. This forthcoming adventure terrifies me more than I can accurately express to you here, but the act of having to deal both physically and emotionally with “putting things away” before the move, has pushed me to the brink.
We spent all day Friday tracking down someone who would be able to get the lock off of the unit. Hours were spent in frustrating anticipation. Finally, our former downstairs neighbor (a locksmith) met with me and took 2 minutes to pick the lock. 2 minutes… after a decade. I thanked him, paid him and sent him on his way with a hearty and grateful handshake. I went back to see what state the unit was in.
Everything was just as I had left it, hastily piled together and covered with a thin layer of dirt (the dirt was an added feature). In truth, it wasn’t anything special. I just needed to get in there, wipe things down and decide what to keep and what to throw away. Simple, right? But as I looked into that mess, I was filled with shame for not taking better care of this stuff, for not getting rid of these trinkets and living a more unencumbered life. I was reminded that I hadn’t opened the unit since my mother passed away in 2009, and here stood the couch and chair she got me for my first apartment by myself. Old props from my indie theatre days in college reminded me of those I had lost touch with and those I desperately didn’t want to lose. I hastily closed the door. The tears were difficult to hold back after that.
After a (long overdue) chat with one of my dearest friends, I feel better about it. I feel less like I’m being exiled and more like I’m moving forward. We are not the people we once were, and in my case, it’s a good thing. I shouldn’t hide from the past, nor should I wallow in it. I was told that it’s okay to be afraid, that there will be challenges ahead and that it’s okay for plans to change. But most importantly I’ve learned that my family and friends stand with me, which has been one of my main fears. I don’t want to leave anybody behind. It turns out, I’m not.
I’ll get in there this week and clean it out once and for all. I’ll get rid of the clothes, throw away the trinkets, keep the books and heirlooms. I’ll go through old term papers and photographs, remnants of the boy I once was and the people I once knew. I’ll hold it together the best I can and hope, after it’s all swept out, that I’ll feel free.
I apologize if this all sounds ridiculous or maudlin. I don’t want to get complainy or weepy. I also realize that the majority of my blog posts now have something to do with the move instead of interesting creative endeavors. For those of you who read this (if there are more than a few of you) I appreciate your patience and will soon have more interesting/entertaining things than what I’ve given you recently. But for now, I may just have to ride this one out.