Living in a place you plan on leaving

If people divided up their life stories into chapters, all they would need is a suitcase. Skip the narrative and just dig through the contents. Forget the setting and the characters and the scenes. Look at the baggage tags, the corny tourist t-shirts, the souvenirs and the different kinds of sand, dirt and dust that collects in the edges of the suitcase.

You can gather a lot about a person’s life and what they’re about based on the things they jammed in the suitcase to bring back to loved ones and the places they’ve been. But that’s mostly with vacations, semesters abroad or internships in a different city.

Suitcases that plan on making a return home are very different than the ones that don’t. These suitcases are the real chapters in people’s lives. These suitcases are less about where their owner has been and more about where they’re going. Because it’s not what’s in the suitcase, but what gets left behind.

If you’re comfortable and content with where you are, your life will mostly consist of the vacationer’s suitcase. Early in life it could be poker chips from Vegas that ticks around the bottom of the bag. Someday that could turn into a stray pacifier or baby bottle. Either way, they’re coming back home. If you aren’t content with where you are or have a dream to chase, you’re the other suitcase. There isn’t any room for a pacifier or a touristy t-shirt in one of those because they aren’t going home and won’t be for a long time. But, every nomad has to settle before they pick up and leave, and that’s the struggle of the latter luggage’s trajectory: learning how to live in a place you plan on leaving.

I have a deep, deep fear of getting attached to things I know I will be forced to physically leave behind. I have goals I want to achieve and leaving things behind will be a part of my life until I reach those goals. When I anticipate a departure, I’ll detach no matter how painful it is. Still, I and other people like me need to find a way to be human beings in between suitcases; between chapters. There’s life that happens between packing and unpacking while thinking about the next destination.

When you plan on leaving a place, it’s important to bring with you the things you love about it and take them with you.

I can’t bring my family with me, but I can bring with me their hospitality. There is a stretch of lawn at our house that has been dirt for the past four years, but it hasn’t been neglected. Our neighbors and their children walk the same path through the yard to get to the front door and my family walks on the same tract to their front door. I can only hope to bring that same feeling of hospitality to wherever I go.

I can’t bring my friends with me, but I can bring with me a place to get closer with new ones. In Lincoln and San Antonio I had a regular bar. The Bar and Bombay Bicycle club are where I almost exclusively spent all my parents money the last year and a half. There wouldn’t be anything special about those places if it weren’t for the same people who were there every single night. Cheap beer will always taste like cheap beer, but that doesn’t matter when you can spend entire afternoons and nights trying to run a keg dry with good people. There won’t be room for a box of pizza or a pitcher of Shiner or all my friends with me in a suitcase, but I can bring with me the idea of how important a good bar can be to friendships.

I can’t bring all my stuff with me, but that’s a good thing. There are things that we need to leave behind. Little things that we hold our identities in are sometimes better off not going in a suitcase, and that’s exciting. This is the opportunity the dynamic dreamer suitcases have that the others don’t have: you can leave it all behind whenever you want. Whether you are leaving behind the crappy person you were in that place or the nice person you want to put away for a while, you can leave them and the physical objects you’re tied to whenever you want.

In between suitcases, it’s important to bring with you the things you loved about where you once were, but the chance to start over on a whim can’t be found next to a tacky t-shirt, a baby bottle, a worn out patch of grass, pitchers of beer in your suitcase or even a person. It can only be found in the idea that you’re living in a place you plan on leaving.

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35 comments

  1. Oh my gosh…I love it. I honestly feel as though you have read my mind and have put feelings I have into words. Great job, my friend. I love the imagery and the clearness.

    It’s like you could see my suitcase…

    Cheers.

    *can I reblog this or is that bad? I have just recently begun blogging and am still learning the ropes.

  2. I can relate to this. “But, every nomad has to settle before they pick up and leave, and thatโ€™s the struggle of the latter luggageโ€™s trajectory: learning how to live in a place you plan on leaving.”

  3. Sounds a bit like my life over the past 20 years. It feel a bit odd sometimes when you’re stationary a bit longer than you expected. My suitcase does hold one item that is always transferable and doesn’t take up any space in the suitcase, yours was the knowledge of a good bar and mine is guiding and scouting it’s my constant when everything else changes!

    1. Wonderful piece– it really makes you think about priorities in life. I like to think that we always bring little pieces of our lives with us when we move, travel, visit, adventure, and live. The hard part, as you say, is figuring out which pieces to bring from each place, and which to leave behind. Maybe we can’t choose individual things, but we can certainly think about our priorities, and pack our suitcases accordingly. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I like the suitcase metaphor. Thanks for introducing it. I’m going to explore that more. A fear of getting attached to things is something I could use a healthy dose of. That said, I think diluting a little my desire to constantly start over would be healthy as well. Staying put somewhere more than 4 or 5 years is something I haven’t done since I lived at home with my parents.

  5. This has always been me. It’s nice to read someone else’s perspective on the same thing. I can’t wait to move again!
    You ought to elaborate on how to get along in a place you want to leave.

  6. Life is indeed a collection of numerous tales; each one of them is so enriching and knowledge packed. We travels place with the invisible baggage of thoughts and memories. They are abundant and a mere suitcase cannot hold such vast treasures. Thank you so much for sharing a wonderful though, this is amazing ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Wow! I’m recently gotten married, left India, my family, a career and all my friends to shift to Europe where my husband is. Your article made me think back to the 2 suitcases I carried with me when I left my parents home for a job in the big city some 20 years ago. And the one suitcase (23 kgs the sum total) I carried with me when shifting to Austria earlier this year.

  8. Wow. Love this post. As a military spouse in the midst of a duty station change, this hits home big time! The added connection is that we were just stationed in Texas!

  9. This is really lovely; I love seeing different perspectives on moving. I’m getting ready to myself and there’s a real sadness for the first time; in the past it’s been all about the excitement of a new place.

  10. This is, and for a short time more my life. Good times… New place, new surroundings, making friends, making new memories and remembering the old. I’m now approaching the ‘stay’ part. Scary but, gonna give it a go. Life changes…

  11. There is a definite beauty in understanding that you have far more memories and cherished life moments (mental possessions) than you have physical possessions. Great imagery in your post.

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