Opinion: The bittersweet beauty of packing up


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Cameron Gorman

I haven’t started packing yet, but I know I’ll have to soon. My summer away from home is drawing to a close — at the end of this week, I’ll pack my two suitcases and drag them into the hallway of my NYU dorm building, hearing the creaky lock shut for the very last time.

There’s something kind of meditative about leaving a space like that. I’ve left many dorm rooms in my time, packed all of my things into bags and shoved small keepsakes into the margins of my backpack. I’ve thrown away papers and notes stashed in desk drawers, and pulled sticky-tacked posters from the thin walls.

It’s never a hard thing to do — I’m always uprooting myself from a temporary place, knowing that I’ll soon be headed back to my home. But it’s never easy, either.

No matter if the room you’re leaving is a bedroom or a dorm room, somewhere you rested your head for a few weeks or a few years, it was still somewhere you trusted with yourself. Somewhere you were able to be the person you didn’t present to the outside world, somewhere to exhale and to sleep.

You existed here, in this small place within a city, and no matter how many people cycle through this same room, you’re now a part of its history.

You ever go into a really old house? A house with a past, that has been a home for many families before yours? It feels different somehow. The air is heavier in some places, resting on your shoulders like a blanket of half-remembered events. Maybe the dorm rooms and hotel rooms you’ve been through don’t feel like that yet — but someday they might. And you will be part of that feeling.

So packing takes on a ritualistic feeling, sometimes. We are removing the fragments and hallmarks of ourselves and taking them with us, leaving no trace of the life we lived there. The tears, the elation, the dreaming. We are taking ourselves to the next place, the next journey, and clearing the space for someone else.

And when we get to this new place, we burn sage. We clear the air for our arrival, spread our sheets over the bed and remove our toothbrushes from their plastic shells. But we haven’t completely taken ourselves from that place. We can’t. That blanket of memory is on our shoulders, just as we have left memories and fragments of ourselves behind. We will always remember ourselves as having existed in that place.

So yes, soon I will pack to leave New York City and NYU, and it will be a little bit like all the times I’ve left places before this one. But there is comfort in knowing that I’ve impressed myself on this space. And now that I have been here, I’ll never really leave.

 Cameron Gorman is an opinion columnist. Reach her at [email protected]