On Leaving Things Behind

When I was young, my family moved a lot. By the time I was 10, we had moved more than a dozen times. These journeys weren’t all terribly well-planned. Sometimes we’d have a very short time to get our things together and go. I learned very quickly not to get attached to things that I wouldn’t be able to take with me if the time came (and it almost inevitably did). I have one distinct memory of moving from my maternal grandmother’s home. I tried as best as I could to stuff all 50 of my very thin fairy tale books into a suitcase, working my way around the nooks and crannies, wrapping clothes around them. I remember thinking that I probably wouldn’t be able to do that next time around.

My frugality with things has continued throughout my life. I have always been reluctant to buy things that I didn’t absolutely require. I still don’t have a dining table or a blender. My bibliophilia has continued on unabated, such that when I moved into my current home, my books made up half of the boxes that were moved into the house. Though my home is filled with the things that I love, and it feels very much like a home, I always think twice about adding to the lot.

When we travel, we often make lists of things that we ought to be taking with us, to prepare for different scenarios on the trip. My own sister usually puts together entire outfits in case we have a nice dinner, or a beach day, or a trip to a museum. Lists can be extensive from various hair implements to the appropriate footwear (carry the one).

For most of my adult life, I have tried to travel as lightly as I can. It helps that most of my clothes are fashionably neutral and I don’t wear much in the way of makeup, so the complexity is somewhat reduced. Still, I find myself asking the question, what can I leave behind? rather than what can I take with me?

There is a good lesson in how we conduct our lives here. In the days where minimalism happens to be in vogue, and everyone is engaged in the life-changing magic of tidying, it does us good to have an inventory of the habits, the people, the thoughts that we can leave behind. After all, just like the acid-wash jeans that served us when we were younger, some things just no longer do; after a while, they might even start to look a bit ridiculous.

We are deeply attached “what ifs” and “just in cases”, all to prepare us for some inevitable future of our own mind’s making.

I’ve found that there is an art to leaving things behind, that only comes over time, and out of habit. Though difficult to oblige, we realize that the unnecessary and seldom useful take up valuable space in our psyches. Like old clothes, or an extra pair of shoes, they hang around, claiming a territory that might well hold something more useful. Once we recognize that these eventualities may not exist, and that we are perfectly capable of making do if necessary, that space then becomes occupied by something more luxurious and more potent: potential.


Originally published at www.mehnazthawer.com on June 6, 2016.

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