My Stuff Has Arrived

Oh, how I’ve missed all of it!  3+ months apart, but we’ve finally been reunited.  And I think this finally makes my move complete.

I wouldn’t recommend having furniture and boxes shipped for a short-term stay in another country.  And technically, I’m only supposed to be here for a year and a half.  So I was prepared (though perhaps a bit sad) to leave everything in storage for that long.  But as you may remember, shortly after I arrived, seeing the short-term potential of my apartment and long-term potential of my life here, I wanted my stuff.  Although I felt the need to justify the move constantly, I think my reasons made sense.  And now that everything is here, I’m sure I made the right decision.

The apartment surprised me with the amount of space it provided.  And with only a twin bed, a table, two chairs, and a desk lamp provided, I saw room for (almost) everything I had in storage.  Not only room – I saw the need for everything I had in storage.  I hadn’t slept on a twin-sized bed since 1998.  I believe in the importance of a couch.  And bare walls bore me.  The place may have been practical, providing the essentials for a functional student life, but it wasn’t comfortable…for a grown-up, which, as you know, is what I am – a grown-up.  So I’ve been feeling pretty uncomfortable for the past few months, waiting for my stuff to come to the rescue.

And I know it’s just stuff.  But it all means a lot to me.  As a relatively transient person, it’s not easy to feel at home anywhere.  But with the pictures, art, books, even furniture I’ve accumulated over time coming along for the ride, it feels like I’m creating a feeling of home no matter where I am.  A familiarity of a painting and a mirror can feel quite comforting.  So no matter what, I was going to see my stuff again – whether it would be in Amsterdam or upon my return to the States was initially unknown.  Getting rid of everything and ‘starting over’ in either place was never an option.

Living in Amsterdam long-term quickly became an option.  Even if it’s not forever, I feel pretty certain that I’ll want to stay for longer than my academic program will last.  And since my immigration status will allow me to stay for at least a year after finishing school, that’s at least one more year I’ll plan to be here (plenty of time to find a job and/or husband that will allow me to stay for even longer).  So why plan to leave stuff in storage for 2 or 3 years?  I may as well benefit from having it now, sparing myself the expense of purchasing things I already own, and enjoying the comforts of home.

There was the expense of it.  It was really expensive.  The price quote I received at the beginning of the process was a fraction of what I ended up spending.  Every step of the process resulted in more fees.  $250 here, 300 euros there.  I eventually stopped fighting it.  Because once my stuff was on the ship, there was no turning back.  Although I wish I could do some things differently, no sense in dwelling on it.  I’m just glad it’s here.

And my stuff is happy to be here as well.  Okay, so here’s something to know about me: I have a habit of personifying most objects around me.  Kind of in a crazy way.  So when I locked everything in that dark storage locker, I imagined everything looking around in the tight space, assessing who was missing, who was among them, and who had been chosen to go with me (too many pixar movies, perhaps).  Saddened by their rejection and imprisonment, they wondered if they had been left for good – never again to experience the joys of the life with me.  How sad is that?! (the emotion of my stuff – not the fact that I’m thinking about it)

So when the mysterious movers barged into the locker, packed them all into another truck, which led to an incredibly long boat ride, which led to a customs inspection in an unknown language in some far away land called Rotterdam, and then another truck… Happy to be together, I’m sure…but I imagine my stuff was terrified.

Everything arrived at 7:30 on Friday morning.  We all cheered – the couch, the cat, everyone.  Zora had packed away some toys and a couple of bags of catnip.  So she had some big wins in the unpacking process.  I was particularly happy to sit on the couch and sleep on the bed.  And over the past couple of days, rediscovering everything that mattered enough to me to be packed away has been quite nice.  Paintings I can’t wait to hang (as soon as I find the hammer), pots and pans, even some lotions and soaps I knew my future self would be happy to see.

So now it’s just a matter of unpacking everything and organizing in an apartment that has a serious lack of closet space.  I’m determined to do it as quickly as possible.  Everything will have a place soon.  And I’ll let you know how it turns out.  Until then, it’s a mess.

packed kitchen

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Ten Years Later

This weekend is my 10-year college reunion. Former classmates will be gathering to chit chat about what they’ve been up to for the past five or ten years, depending on whether or not they attended the 5-year. Folks will be happy to see old friends and many acquaintances who have been all but forgotten due to the whole ‘out of sight’ phenomenon. Classrooms, cafeterias, and art exhibits will all spark reflections on who we were ten years ago. There will be tons of “oh my goodness!! How have you been?! What have you been up to?!” flying around in high-pitched tones. Good memories relived – and new, somewhat generic memories created in turn.

I’m not going.

Not that I’m opposed to reunions. I went to the 5-year and had a good time. I also planned to go to this one. I even had the budget worked out, deciding to dish out the big bucks for the all-class dinner and a nostalgic stay in a dirty dorm room, sharing an even dirtier coed bathroom. The stage had been set for a delightful walk down memory lane. But once one of my closest friends from school told us she could no longer make it, the plan unraveled.

The question of whether or not it would be worth the effort and money to attend was asked, and the answer was not a definitive yes or no. My friends and I went back and forth for a couple of weeks. But as time went on, the idea of paying tons of money to see a few people I’d be excited to catch up with, and having superficial conversations with a bunch of people I barely remember (I take full responsibility for my bad memory), became less and less appealing. Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. But it wasn’t worth the effort or the money, especially in light of my aggressive savings plan that officially launched this month. And also in light of Facebook, which makes reuniting every few years almost unnecessary, kinda.

I can’t pretend I’m not a bit disappointed that I won’t have an opportunity to see old friends this weekend. But I also can’t pretend it’s not somewhat of a relief. Although I know it’s silly, seeing people in five year intervals puts on the pressure to have something remarkable to report. Shoot, I feel the pressure on a Monday morning to report to my coworkers on all of my weekend adventures. And when my weekend consists of not much more than a walk from my bed to my couch, I dread sharing my boring response to the cheerful inquiries about what I’ve accomplished over the past two days. So five years of what seems like nothing but walks from my bed to my couch is really just pitiful.

At the five year reunion, I had finished law school, gone through an extended period of painful job searching, recently moved to Oakland, and was working in a miserable, low-paying job. I was completely broke and beginning to pay off tons of student loan debt. I was also on the brink of ending a long-distance, and long dying relationship. But I was feeling good – happy to be alive and feeling fortunate that I was able to be there. I also wasn’t insecure about my circumstances because they were shared by many classmates, or at least many could empathize. Five years out of college it makes sense to just be landing on your feet. But I joked with friends, “if I’m not married and doing something remarkable by the time our next reunion arrives, I’m not coming.” It was one of those serious jokes.

Funny how time flies when you’re figuring sh*t out. A few epiphanies and decisions pass – and it’s five years later.

I don’t want to be too hard on myself. In fact, I’m quite proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish since the last reunion.  So I need to get over that – I’ve got a decent story to tell.  But to be embarrassingly honest, it’s more about the insecurity I feel when hearing the stories of others. “We’ve been out of school the same amount of time. And you’ve managed to start a business, learn another language, find a cure for a previously incurable disease, purchase a home, find a mate, and have two babies? Wow, I’m really happy for you.” And I am! I’m really happy for that person. But how much of it can I take before I begin to feel like the incredible shrinking woman, small enough to fit into a first grader’s pocket by the time the reunion weekend is over? It wouldn’t be thaaaat bad…right?  (right.)  But the thought of it is pretty miserable.

So the thoughtful weighing of options (and life in general) has led to a missed 10th reunion. I’m committing to going to the 15th no matter what. I may be living in Amsterdam with my husband and two babies, writing up my findings to cure cancer. Or I may be living in my sister’s basement in Jersey trying to figure out a cure for an unsightly bunion. Either way, I’ll be there to share the stories and celebrate the growth and successes of my friends and former classmates. Let’s just hope I’ve still got my looks.