On Thursday I said good-bye to my New York apartment and moved everything out to my house on Long Island. Although I was ready to make the move, I did not expect it to be as difficult as it turned out to be.
I lived in that apartment for over fifteen years and before that I lived in the studio next door. Moving to that building was a big step in my adult life. I was in my late twenties and until then I had lived with roommates from the time I came home from the hospital with my mother. I was afraid of living alone, I wondered what I would do with myself without someone to eat with, make plans or be annoyed at.
The movers were barely in the lobby before I realized that living alone was one of the most fantastic experiences I would ever have. I loved my L-shaped studio and reveled in the luxuries of being independent including drinking the milk out of the carton and knowing whatever I left in the fridge would stay there. Television and movie choices were not negotiated and I never had to wait for the phone to free up or the bathroom to be empty.
When the one bedroom next door opened up I was ready for more space and moved myself in by dragging my furniture across one threshold to another. I brought my boxes and my memories and settled in to a space that allowed me to have more guests, space and freedom. I had four large closets in that apartment and over time I filled them with stuff, lots and lots of stuff.
When I turned forty I yearned for more outdoor space, to be more connected to a community and to finally own something of my own so I bought my house and instead of moving everything out of my apartment I gradually brought the essentials and left the "stuff" there.
It was only a matter of time before I started to realize that I wanted to be at my house more than I wanted to be in my apartment and in the city and last year after losing my job and getting my book published I knew it was time to let go.
The process of packing forced me to go through the documents, trinkets and mementos of my life. I found my college ID and remembered that first day at NYU when I wondered how I was ever going to find my way in the city and a few papers I had written with incredibly supportive comments from my professors that helped me see my own potential. I found birthday cards, one from my father whose box-like distinctive printing made me tear up. It wasn't a big birthday just an average one, back when I thought we would never get along and he would be around forever.
I found my Aunt Rosemary's chocolate cake recipe which we thought was lost, in her hand writing that was so hard to read and so undeniably her. She is gone now and suddenly that recipe card felt more precious.
I found love letters, gifts, and incredibly sweet notes passed to me from men and boys I have loved and dated. Drawings from all the amazing children I have loved and I marveled at how silly some of their baby outfits were and how joyful my life became when each one of my nieces and nephews were born.
I found pictures so many pictures and so many good times spread out over so many years.
I found myself overwhelmed with sadness for all the people who have passed or have drifted out of my life (some for reasons I can't remember and others for hurts that still sting) and amazed at how fast all the years have gone.
I asked my Aunt Rosemary a few years ago on her eightieth birthday if she felt different. She said she didn't, that in her mind she was always the same young person in her twenties and often when she looked in the mirror she was surprised at what she saw.
I understand what she means, going through the small touchstones of your past it isn't so much remembering as it is reliving, as if the past is not gone but still with us, I am still that NYU college student and still a stand-up comedian, still me.
Yet, holding on can fill up too much space in your life can't it? And what if that leaves less space for more adventures and more love and light?
In the end, I took what mattered most, gave away a lot and tossed even more and a took a moment before closing the door behind me to say good-bye.
I would have stayed longer but the future is waiting.
Causes Teri Coyne Supports