living lightly

two weeks ago, i signed a lease on a tiny little efficiency apartment in philadelphia, a mere six miles from my new job as a second-grade teacher in the northern part of the city. one week ago, i made the official move into my new space. i rented a u-haul and packed it tight with all my bins and boxes and random items of furniture, ones that i’d stored at various places while i was in liberia off and on for the past five years. the whole process was draining–physically, mentally, emotionally. i’d thrown my back out the day before the big move and spent most of the day having to watch my amazing boyfriend and a close friend (who’d also been my roommate briefly) load and then unload the truck, and then carry all that stuff into my new place. it was an amazingly humbling experience.

and all of this, it got me thinking: this move, the new job, the change and transition from one season into another–all of it has taught me so very much. i’ve learned about taking leaps of faith and pursuing your dreams with every piece of your heart and soul. i’ve learned that i’m braver and stronger than i ever realized, that i really can do difficult things and, most importantly, i’m loved and supported through it all. i’ve learned about trading the good, the easy, the comfortable in for the best, even if it’s usually terrifying and takes all the guts you’ve got in you. i’ve learned about accepting a timeline that’s not my own, about praying without ceasing and still getting the answer “not yet”.

but perhaps the toughest lesson–and arguably the one i needed to learn–involved letting go. opening up my clenched fists in order that they may be filled with something new. saying goodbye to, in turn, say hello. leaving behind what was so that i can embrace what will be.

it seems so easy, and had you asked me a month or two ago, i’d have told you letting go wouldn’t be a problem for me. but as i sat on the hardwood floor of my new apartment, surrounded by rubbermaid bins labeled from 2007-2011, i realized: much of what i’d been hanging on to served no purpose for me anymore. the woman i was six, seven, eight years ago is a mere shadow of the one i see in the mirror today, and it’s silly of me to hold on to remnants of the life i’m no longer living.

so i purged. and good lord, did that feel gooooood. i’d forgotten how therapeutic it is to unpack and unload. you breathe a little easier, a little deeper, and stand a little taller. it feels productive and melancholy and hopeful and new, all at the same time. and even throughout that process, i learned another lesson: all those things i’d been certain i needed? i didn’t actually need them at all. things, stuff, possessions–those don’t make a life. life is people and memories and love and experiences. and none of it can fit into any box.

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i read an irish blessing once, and it was so beautiful, so true, that i tucked it into my heart that i might carry it with me always. it says, “may you always be blessed with walls for the wind, a roof for the rain, a warm cup of tea by the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you, and all that your heart might desire.” these days, i’m pulling out those words and finding them achingly on-time. i don’t need anything more than i have, truly. i’ve been blessed, ridiculously so, and i’m thankful. my life is beautiful and rich and bursting at the seams with lovely faces and places that make me understand what it’s finally like to be home.

Photo by Lasse Christensen // Creative Commons // Flickr

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