I have been collecting a plethora of things since I turned 18 and ventured out on my own. It started with the practical things like a cheap vacuum cleaner, a used futon from a friend of a friend’s neighbor, hand-me-down pots and pans from my mother, and a toaster from the 70’s. I was proud of all of these things because they showcased my independence – glamorous or not.
Throughout college I purchased “just for now” items to get me by and share with my roommates. I had clothes from high school that I never ceased to follow me because it was a well-known fact that I would indeed wear them again… right?
All of these items followed me around for the next five years through too many moves to count, including when I moved in my then boyfriend, future husband, and now ex-husband.
The following years were filled with life, love, and a whole lot of change. My future husband and I started building a life together – buying new, getting rid of old. I graduated college and landed a job in a marketing agency. We got married and bought a house, and not too long after, we welcomed a puppy into our home.
But, I don’t remember a single one of those things except that they happened according to pictures. During that same period of time, I had lost an aunt to alcohol, my younger sister to an accidental drug overdose, and soon after, my marriage. The fog that consumed my life, also consumed my every memory. The career I worked so hard for, I almost lost. The family I loved, I pushed away. I neglected my marriage, my health, and my heart.
My husband walked in the door and asked for a divorce. In that moment, all I had left was physical things – a new vacuum, a fancy toaster, and a brand new set of pots and pans. I sat in a big house, full of nice things, but never felt so alone. I spent the next few months battling anxiety and panic attacks, figuring out how to take care of a house alone, and drinking the occasional bottle of wine. Every Wednesday for the next ten months, I sat in therapy figuring out who I was, where I was going, and how I got where I ended up.
The answer was so simple, but so hard to find. I had found my identity in others and when they were gone, my identity went with them. After ten long months, I made the decision to sell everything I owned, put my house up for rent, and move to another state.
Strangers came and paid pennies to the dollar for the things that used to define me. As more and more things walked out my door, my walls became bare, but my heart became lighter.
This time I sat in a big house with absolutely nothing, but never felt so relieved. And, all I have left is the rest of my life.