This is a story I didn’t want to, want to tell. Pushing publish on this one feels a little iffy…
And yet…here we go. :)
My early 20’s were what I like to call “the gathering years.” So much time was spent gathering, rushing about. I wanted the house, the furniture, the cars…ALL the things.
You’re always in such a hurry my Grandma used to say. A forewarning, if only I’d listened.
By 25 or so I’d finally come to the conclusion that none of those things were really all that important. At least not to the extent that I was trading my life just to have them.
I hadn’t understood this up to that point because as a kid we never had “all the things,” or at times even some of the things, and at others not even a few of the things.
At six, I understood what it was like to sit on a curb at 2 AM wondering exactly where home was now that we no longer had one— the only belongings to call my own being one distraught mother, one sleepy, scared, and equally pissed off little brother, one too wise for her age girl, with just the clothes on their backs, and a bird in a cage.
By the age of seven I knew what it was like to sleep in a car—and not for fun— even though I liked to pretend.
I knew what it was like to pack up—or not pack up when there wasn’t time— and say goodbye (or not say goodbye, time, again) to everyone and everything you loved with only the belongings which would fit in a tiny hatchback Honda— cramped with sadness, too small for four people, and the few contents of a past life which remained.
I knew what starting over meant. Again and again. I knew what it felt like to have not one but both parents disappear—and in my mind it was because there were never enough of the things.
Later, I would come understand—it was a different sort of thing they were chasing.
But back then I thought that in order never to be in that little girl’s shoes again, well, one had to work hard. And that if you worked hard then you’d have the things and then people stayed— and that is just what needed to be done.
I thought once you got the things then you’d get to be happy. Just like the families the younger version of myself always wished I’d belonged to. Families that had a home—not a place they’d set up, only to later to flee from. My wannabe families had things and never had to say goodbye. They had enough food, and toys, and pets they’d get to keep long enough to see them to get old. They were the kind of people who didn’t disappear into the night.
Only that wasn’t it…I would later learn. The things weren’t the magic that made it right. I was surprised to find that once I had the things, well, they didn’t bring happiness at all. They were just things.
Then I was thirty and that brother who’d always sat next to me on the curb, the one who sometimes took beatings so I didn’t have to, died and I decided I no longer wanted to own (any) of the things—if it meant being owned by them.
A bigger house, newer cars, and so on suddenly became a whole lot less important. Because even as a six year old, with little to my name, there on that curb, at two in the morning, I knew I still had him—and, I realize now, that was what mattered.
It wasn’t until I’d planned the funeral, wrote the obit, cleaned out his apartment, disassembled the contents of his life— sorted all of the things that he’d worked really fucking hard for—which sadly turned out not to be a lot that the weight of it sunk in. As I carried the boxes down three flights of stairs and loaded the truck I thought about the unfairness of it all and how much mattered so little if you go to sleep and never wake up.
It was then that I finally understood that having more in actuality often means having less—that is if more comes at the expense of ones freedom.
I realized that I wanted to work for the love of doing so—not for the having of any thing—I wanted the act of the work itself to be the dream—versus working simply for the dream.
So I put my two weeks in—and my nose to the grind— and I wrote.
Has that decision, for sure, meant not having all the things I might have had otherwise?
But it took the deaths of my family members, over the course of a decade, one by one—pretty much everyone lost who knew me for me—for who I was back then—that six year old sitting on the curb clinging to a little boy and a bird cage.
Most now, only see the girl I’ve worked hard to become.
It took all of this loss and all of the grief that accompanies it —for me to finally come to terms with the fact that less can be more.
Now I know.
I know that it isn’t the things that matter.
It’s the people.
I know rushing isn’t where it’s at.
And I know that six year olds can be braver and wiser than someone more than three times their age—which is really too bad.
Mostly though, I know that eventually… it all evens out.