We are moving. This is something that I’ve wanted for a very long time. Almost 8 years ago, I moved to New York City BY MYSELF as a 24 year old who knew nothing but the Pennsylvania she was raised in. Granted, I moved around that entire state since the day I graduated high school and found nothing that kept me there…I wanted more.
Since that initial move in 2005, I’ve graduated from art school and lived in various places, such as Queens, Washington Heights, Soho and now back to the great state that I said I would never return to, New Jersey. I moved in with my husband when we got married in 2011. I literally have a view of the skyline of Manhattan, which was my minimum requirement for moving to NJ. In his defense, we needed to get on our feet financially, as well as married people, career-wise, etc. It was a smart move, but I’ve been itching to return ever since.
This Saturday, we move to the Upper East Side, into a somewhat tiny one bedroom, from our ever expanding at-least three bedroom, second floor apartment. Over the past three months, we’ve been slowly donating clothes, photo albums, you-name-it every weekend. David’s (my husband) family is coming from Wisconsin to retrieve over half of our furniture (and sleep on an air mattress in our new one bedroom instead of the cozy guest room we once had).
During this process, I’ve acquired pieces of my past due to my parents moving out of my childhood home last Fall. These mementos have resided in our storage closet in possibly three or more boxes and remained untouched. As of now, I have successfully gone through at least two and today is my last day before the move. What I have realized through these objects is so very powerful. I really can’t go into my entire life story right now, nor would you like me to…perhaps someday I’ll write that book…maybe not. Regardless, I had pen pals, boyfriends, crushes, friends from every journey I’ve been on. As an adult, I’ve looked back with jaded eyes, but as I see the words people have written to and about me, I see everyone in such a different light. I sought to escape. Not because things were so bad, but because I was seeking this teeny glimpse of light that no one else saw; something I thought would be the me in a future life…someone I wanted to be. I’ve found that person! I’m still seeking, but I’ve found her. I’m happy. I have no restraints, and when I do, I bust them down! I’m so happy to say that my journey has panned out. I will continue to have hills to climb and challenges, but I was in a dark place. One where I thought no one “got” me. Everyone was so kind, and I’m reminded of that when I read through these letters and notes. Everyone wanted me to get through this “stuff” and find myself. They didn’t always want to let go of me. Somehow they saw the true me even though I couldn’t, so that was a hard part when I would move on. But, they loved me…truly.
It’s been such an eye opening experience to read these words and look at pictures. Originally, I thought I would keep everything, under the assumption that these are the things that made me who I am today. But, I no longer feel that way. Instead, I realize my choices…ME has made me who I am today. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have the balls to move to Manhattan on a shoestring. I had faith that something would find me here…that I’d run into myself over and over again until I realized it was me.
Because I’ve discovered that, these articles from my past are yes, great to preserve, but no longer necessary to facilitate any sort of processing. They’re moments, reminders of true love, but they do not define me. I’m willing to let go. In fact, part of me, as I look around my current apartment full of boxes of things (and things and things) believes I would be much happier if everything just poof went away, because at least then I’d have the memory and wouldn’t be given the responsibility of choosing which mementos I should keep. But, I don’t see that happening (unless I set the fire). Therefore, I need to keep what brings me joy now, instead of what reminds me of pain.
I also always thought that pain (and that reminder) is what defined us as people, but looking back I’m wrong…it’s love. The pain I felt when my boyfriend and I broke up at 17 was not what truly hurt me. It was that we really did love each other. He was my first sexual partner and although we were too young to handle it correctly (who is?), we really did love each other. I’ve blamed him for so much. He isn’t to blame. If anything, his choices have catapulted me into this journey of seeking that has ultimately led me to who and where I am today. For that, I am thankful.
Everyone loved me. Even guys I thought were just friends, I have notes from…secret admirer notes that said so many things about their feelings. I was so blinded at the time. I thought there was something wrong with me. I wanted to be that strong confident girl, and instead I hated myself. These notes are seriously shocking realizations that no one saw the mess that I did when I looked in the mirror.
“Stuff”. Even when I would break a heart…I moved to Manhattan and broke up with someone during that process. I have a letter from him saying how he wished it would’ve turned out differently. He knew I had “stuff”, but he wanted to give it his all…he would’ve loved me, forever and true. Regardless, I needed to unload that baggage and moving to Manhattan was part of the journey. I have. I’ve unloaded. I’m moving on.
My husband is someone that also loves fully, and because I’ve struggled to love and accept myself in the past; I’ve explained and analyzed so many things over and over again…he hasn’t received the type of love that he deserves. I hold myself back; limit myself for protection. When I see the person I was in the past and how everything that happened was for my good, I don’t have to worry for the future. All on the table. It’s laid out that I am now the person that I’ve desired to be all along and the love that those in my life gave and have given me has made me this person and brought me to this place, NOT the pain. There is no need to continue to torture yourself, Joanna. You are loved. You’ve always been. You will continue to be. Onward and forward. :)