Yesterday evening I completed and submitted my Expression Of Interest for New Zealand residency. This afternoon I started bagging up all the books I will be selling, in an attempt to get rid of many of my possessions here in the States. Five minutes ago I had to stop bagging and decide that I won’t be going to today after all and have a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate to calm myself down.
I’ve already done one or two passes through my books–I have no idea how many I have, by the way: enough to fill, if I stack books on top of books, three of those tall thin IKEA bookshelves–and have made some keeper piles: one of which is going to be sent back to Miami and one of which will be, eventually, sent to me in New Zealand whenever I get back there. But that still leaves a couple hundred books that need to go: to friends, to the secondhand book shop, to the library. Out to the world, away from me.
An old book of poems I referred to back when my idea of home decor was to write stuff in fake calligraphy and stick it on the wall, along with dried rose petals. The “New Milennium” copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves that I bought ten years ago in my very first apartment back in Claremont. An old high school copy of the Canterbury Tales. Random books I got from Gael in book club and wrote about back when I was keeping track of everything I read. An Italian cookbook a friend brought back from Tuscany when I cat-sat for her eight years ago. Books I’ve read on the plane, on the bus, in bed, on the beach, at school, on the couch, in the bath, my whole life. Some of them I brought to California with me when I went away to college. Some of those books, the ones I will be giving away, survived the hurricane.
And the joke is, of course, that just because I’ve submitted (the very beginning of) my application for NZ residency doesn’t mean that I will get NZ residency. It’s not like the first time, or even last time I tried to do this: there’s absolutely no guarantee, now. I mean, yeah, thank goodness, there’s a good chance, but let’s just say I don’t have a plane ticket back yet. I don’t have a time line. I don’t know when I will go back; I don’t know (and I can barely type the words, here) if I will go back.
So it feels a little wild to be giving away all my stuff when there is a chance that I will need my stuff for a while longer, even though I know that it’s just stuff; stuff is gettable wherever I am in the world, I have noticed It doesn’t matter that I’m letting some of it go because I still have too much of it as it is and let’s not even think about baggage allowances and shipping costs or how I’m going to get an antique lamp and a set of original Fiestaware to the other side of the country without breaking something or completely losing my mind in the process. And anyway, once it’s all packed up and done away with I won’t miss it anymore, I won’t regret it.
That doesn’t explain why I had to stop in the middle of emptying the shelves, though, and go and lie down for a while, thinking of how bare and desolate and empty they look, how completely devastated, wondering if I have made the right choices and if I am doing the right thing. Thinking about how getting rid of these books really means that I am committing to going back to New Zealand, somehow, sometime, that I am putting the process into motion again and that it isn’t just going to be a year away adventure-type thing, this time. I’m not hedging my bets, this time. I’m not looking for a new apartment and job and car in Seattle–I’m looking for those things in Wellington, which means I can’t have all the old familiar things. That’s the deal, I guess. I’ll be getting a one-way ticket, when I go.
When I go. That’s what this is all about–trying to convince myself that what I want so badly in my heart is what’s going to happen. If the books and their bookshelves go, if I cut the bonds, that means I will get to go, right? That means I’ll have to go.