I moved to Jersey City last week. Three days in, I had two packages stolen for the first time ever. One of them held the three remaining pieces to my bed frame. The other held the most perfect pair of MANGO earrings for a friend’s wedding.
As I digested the news on the PATH ride home, I felt waves of rage that shook and shocked me. By contrast, 6 months ago, I purchased an antique box circa 1910 for my best friend’s wedding. After a night spent celebrating, she had an unfortunate fall while getting ready for bed, landing on the gift and smashing it – prior to even opening it. I laughed, honestly believing, “It’s just stuff.”
So why, now, was I so distraught over the loss of three pieces of lumber and a pair of earrings? Sure, I didn’t love that the culprit snatched them in the first place after entering our building on false pretenses – he told our neighbor that he had, “...just moved in and forgot my keys.” And it doesn’t help that starting out breeds intense financial anxiety, or that our bed is useless without those last three pieces. But really, I know the root of my anger and complete sorrow and disbelief: I hate letting go.
I fell in love with our bed completely upon first seeing it. It was the first thing I tried to put together when we moved in. After the final three pieces arrived late, and were then stolen, the company refused to send the remaining pieces again. They wanted us to accept an entire new bed and figure out how to dispose of the bed frame we already had 97% of. So now, I have to forget that bed while staring at the sad disassembled mess in our spare bedroom until we find a new one.
In the midst of the stress of the move (which mostly revolved around the delivery of the bed and couch), I had the hardest time finding an outfit for the wedding we had coming up. But those earrings made me love the entire look I chose. I loved them so much that my boyfriend went hunting for them on his lunch break to replace the stolen pair, but they weren’t in-store and I had to let them go.
Just like when we got to Jersey City in the first place.
I’ve always loved cities. I vividly remember my first big trips to New York City and Boston as a kid. The first locations I ever fell in love with as an adult were Paris and London. My very first big-girl apartment was just blocks from Fenway Park in Boston. But with each of those beautiful affairs came letting go, little by little, of the greenery, fresh air, and open spaces of home.
I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts. Every spring, cow manure was the omnipresent smell, and I remember the age when I stopped complaining about its odor, because I’d finally grown used to it. My road was dirt until I was 15, and I can still feel the sadness of its paving, as I watched trees from childhood get torn by their roots from the ground. I still get a lump in my throat every time I get out of the car after a long time away, because the air smells so good and I can see the stars.
When I returned from finishing my master’s in London last summer, I thought I’d spend a couple weeks or months at home until I found a job in New York – I just wanted to live in the city. Nearly six months later, it was time to go. I found that job. But in that time, I also found that love for home, and a complete understanding of why some people never want to leave. I love the woods, and I love my family even more. Leaving them this time was just as hard as freshman year of college, when I spent the first three mornings hiding in the shower, crying as hard as I could, knowing things might never be the same.
It was just as hard as moving to Boston for grad school, when I spent the night before the move in my car in tears, telling my boyfriend that I wish my family made me hate them like normal people, because my biggest fear now is missing out on precious time and memories together.
Don’t get me wrong – I know that the go-getters have the best chance at the best life, and that every parent’s ultimate goal is for their child to go out on their own, ready and willing to succeed. I’ve felt the excitement of that possibility at every turn. I’ve always wanted to experience all the possibilities that really living has to offer. When I was three, my mom’s colleague asked how old I was and without flinching I responded, “16.” I’m not afraid of growing up. In fact, I could never wait to get there.
I’m afraid of letting go. I’m afraid of the part where moving forward means leaving something behind, and I’m worried that I’ve not been appreciative enough, or that the things and people I’m leaving and left behind are my future regrets.
When my first real boyfriend and I broke up, it took me a solid two years and too many pounds to get over it. At the time, I thought it was “love” that kept me hooked. I couldn’t release our time together, replaying each and every possible moment that I might’ve hurt him, thinking about every hug, milestone, and mildly happy memory, while my friends and family just wanted me to move on.
Years later, I understand that despite the actual anticlimactic nature of our relationship, at the time, he was my best friend, I cared deeply for him, and it wasn’t our relationship that I couldn’t move on from – it was him. He was a big part of my life for a short amount of time, the first real friend and partner that I actively had to decide to let go of.
There were more, and other friendships that I’ve ended that I still struggle with daily. I still think of my childhood best friend every single day and wonder if she’s happy and how she’s doing, and the same for one of my college best friends. I still think of the lost friends that slipped away while I moved forward. In my junior and senior year of college, those thoughts were crippling.
I’d spend hours replaying things I’d done and said at parties, epic text arguments, one-sided opinions that I no longer hold, and mishandlings of circumstances I was just learning to cope with. Even after college, I find myself in the car, the bathroom, or walking to work, trapped in a slow-motion replay of choices I’ve made, things I’ve said, and regrettable actions, my heart breaking thinking of the people I’ve hurt along the journey to my still undetermined destination.
But I’ve also realized that I love change and hate letting go. I love walking the streets of New York City every day, but I miss the smell of juniper and pine. I love seeing friends whenever I want, but I miss hanging out with my mom. I love the friend-group I’ve cultivated and hung onto through the years, but I will always have affection and heart pangs for the ones who taught me some of life’s toughest and most important lessons.
When I was in sixth grade, I saw the movie “The Upside of Anger.” While it wasn’t my all-time favorite movie, one line stuck, and I think of it often: “The upside of anger is the person you become.”
I’ve come to think that every difficult goodbye breeds that same result. Nobody grows in the comfortable spaces – it’s discomfort that nurtures the parts of ourselves we haven’t met yet – the strength we didn’t know we had, new-found confidences, and undiscovered passions. From new, creative, free-spirited friends that helped put me back together to the strength to learn to love myself, heartbreak in its various forms brought me defining happiness and enlightenment. Even the loss of my perfect Mango earrings brought me another perfect pair.
We still don’t have a bed, dresser, or coffee table, so I don’t have any practical applicable moving advice – I’m learning every day. But if there’s anything I know for sure it’s that I’m wide-eyed and aware in this jittery, uncomfortable moment where the upside of letting go is the person I’ll become.