One of the most descriptive things I can say about my family is that they have trouble letting go of anything.
This is a theme for most of my extended family, but more specifically in my immediate. It’s always been an issue, in that I’ve never known anything but a messy/cluttered house, but also a saving grace.
“Do we still have that single-cup coffee machine that my mother gave us back when we were living on the mountain?”
“Probably. I’ll check the attic.”
If someone asked me a year ago, I would have said it’s all my mother. Ma buys in bulk things that she’ll never use in hopes that one day, she’ll come across someone who needs it. And nothing gets thrown away- wasteful. With her, I could attest it to the fact that her family didn’t have much growing up, and it’s certainly comforting to have things you can hold on to. Packing my entire life into two suitcases for my move to New York next month made me see that not only do I have too many things that I “absolutely cannot” get rid of, but that this is true for the rest of my family as well.
We have this set of Corelle mugs, and I noticed one had a large crack on the side and another had a chip in the rim. My parents got replacement mugs, of course, and got rid of the mug with the crack. Yet, as I sat down to my cocoa and my lip snagged on a chip in the rim of my mug, I rolled my eyes and said to no one: “Of course they didn’t throw it away. We hold on to shit. It’s what we do.”
And it is.
And that’s why my life is headed in the direction it is, I think. Because just like my parents hold on to grudges and anything that is still usable, I held on to a childhood fancy long enough to have the drive to pursue it. I held on to hatred for a tiny town in Northwest Georgia for fourteen years, and now I feel no connection to the place I spent most of my life pretending I fit in. I held onto pride that I was worth something more than being inexplicably trapped in a life I didn’t want, surrounded by people that were willing to settle and learn to love this place they think they can never leave.
I held on to the dream that one day I could turn a parking lot into a high rise.
My family has always been able to hold on to so many things because they have so much room. So much space to grow out and be happy. But there is no space for me here. It’s a scary thought that in a month, I will have to let go of the things I won’t have room for in New York, but even though there won’t be space for all of my shoes or my throw pillows or my Christmas decorations, there will be space for me, and there will be space for the dreams I’ve never been able to lose sight of.
Because, as they say, there is no space to grow out in New York. All you have is up.
Someday I will paint the New York skyline with my bull-headed curiosity, my fears, my pride, and my blind optimism. Someday I will grow upwards and I will look for whatever it is my childhood self imagined I’d find in the city’s dirty depths, and I hope, more than anything else, that I am able to hold on to as many parts of her as I can.
I’ll see you soon, NYC. Keep the light on for me.