I thought packing was going to be difficult. I thought I would want to bring everything so that nothing felt left behind. I thought I wouldn’t part with items because maybe those items constituted a piece of my identity. Maybe the collection of materiality that I have amassed and cultivated over the years has morphed into an aspect of myself much deeper. Yet when I began to mentally assess this seemingly daunting task, all of these fears vanished, replaced by the motivation of levity.
The next two – maybe three or four, or even five – years of my life are going to be imbued with impermanence. I am going to be ungrounded, experiencing postgrad life in a different way than most of my friends. I won’t have an HR department or dreams of a 401k. Instead, I’ll have socialized healthcare and a kibbutz.
After Erez and after Clalit, I don’t know the rest. Yet what I do know is that I want to be light when I embark on my journey of unknowingness.
Being light means not bringing every soft sweater or all six pairs of black jeans with me. I have to chose what goes there, what stays here, and what leaves altogether. Yet this process of self-scrutiny didn’t begin this week or even this month. It began before that, when I realized the reality of my life.
I started culling my closet of things that I don’t like, don’t wear, don’t want, and things that I do want, but I know are impractical for a life of impermanence. My jumpsuits and blazers are in a suitcase, prepared to pause their service until further notice. My Mardi Gras bag has already been acquired by Buffalo Exchange, while friends have selected a black top here and a pair of harem pants there. What remains is a leaner collection that continues to dwindle as I think of something at work or the gym and come home, only to tear it off its hanger.
As I glean my curation of clothes, my life becomes lighter.
The only aspect of this exercise in levity that has been difficult is selecting which books to bring.
While I don’t presently have access to my entire library, I have enough that I’m having trouble deciding which ones to bring. I know that I likely won’t have much time to read, which is why my book choices matter.
I want to bring books that I’ve read before – ones that I already know the endings to. While I may choose to bring an unread book (or a half-unread book, as is the case with most of my current contenders), what I really want is to bring a few books that I know and value.
I am going to bring my Etgar Keret short story books, hoping that once I am yet again immersed in Hebrew I will be inspired to tackle the literature. I’m also going to take The Zionist Ideas, which I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t finished yet. But then there are other books, like Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness that I don’t need, but I might want. I might want to open up the memoir one day so that I may reread (and recry) passages like,
“And so I came to the Land long before I actually arrived here.”
I want to bring books that I can flip to any page and reread something incredible. I also want to have books like As If: The Oral History of Clueless with me, in case I suddenly decide that I want to revisit how Paul Rudd does not know how to properly construct a sandwich.
Maybe I’ll give myself a quota on how many Zionist ideology books I bring, leaving behind The Diaries of Theodor Herzl. (Oz and Troy say it all – why bring further attention to my raging and inexplicably nerdy adoration of the founding father?). What I wonder is if I bring a book like Notorious RBG that I still have yet to read in the States (I’m working on it, Aunt Ellen), why would crossing the Atlantic prompt me to exhume it?
I want to bring books with me that I can glance at and smile. I want to look at those books and think, “These are the books that made me.” Maybe the books made me a better writer or a better reader or a better Zionist. But I want books that impacted me and are worth the weight.
Bringing these books might negate all my decluttering, but I doubt that the weight of their words will prevent me in my pursuit of the levity of packing.