packing & the worst kind of nostalgia

I’d say I have Leaving Home for the First Time Syndrome, but my parents are divorced, so I’ve left and returned to my childhood home constantly as I’ve grown up. I guess it’s more like Stuffing Childhood Belongings Into Cold Dark Boxes Where They Will Collect Dust for Years for the First Time Syndrome.

The strangest part, though, is the sheer amount of stuff I don’t need. Most of what I’m packing is old clothes and memorabilia, and I hardly even noticed it before. It’s freeing, but it’s also kind of frightening to think about how much junk I (and other people) keep around, just to fill up space and hold onto memories that have mostly eroded away. I can easily fit everything I need in a tiny dorm, and that’s awesome, but it freaks me out too. Even simple things like what books I’m bringing become big decisions, because it makes me realize which books I actually need with me and which ones just make me feel better (Harry Potter, for example. Decided to leave that one behind).

On top of this, I’ve somehow started to feel nostalgic about current events. Since the definition of nostalgia is “a feeling of wistfulness about past events,” it seems pretty absurd. The other definition makes it even more ridiculous: homesickness. Yeah, I’m crazy homesick here, sitting around at home.

I guess the feeling is based mainly around my little sister. She started school a few weeks back–she’s a sophomore in high school–and we can’t hang out as much as we used to; she actually has work to do and I’m still manically cramming my life into the garage. Whenever we do hang out I feel like I’ve already missed something important. We’ve been going on runs lately, and she’s usually the one who suggests it. Every time as I’m getting ready to go, putting my hair up and pulling on my old cross country shoes, the same thought repeats in my head: I thought I was the runner. Aren’t I the runner? What the hell? Have I actually taught you something? When did you start listening to my rants about health and fitness?

It’s strange to think she’s becoming responsible, taking my place, and it’s stranger still because she’s moving into my room. I’ve been clearing space and stealing her stuff so it’ll be easier for her after I leave, and each new thing of hers I bring in makes it even clearer to me that no matter how often I come back home, it’ll never be quite the same. My room will no longer be my room. It’s almost like it never was at this point, with how easy it is to just pack everything away. Even if I do feel bad about cramming all my gymnastics and running medals into boxes.

One last really strange thing about this transition period is the hyper-awareness. I’ve noticed more reminders of my childhood in the past few weeks than I usually would in a year. Playing Frisbee in the front yard with my dad. Fumbling around on my unicycle, like a repetition of learning to ride a bike when I was six. Tom and Jerry on at three in the morning, no longer popular enough for daytime showings. Hearing the voices of sports announcers from my bedroom (baseball, football, tennis, even golf), reminders that the rest of the house is awake. My dad randomly deciding to watch The Phantom of the Opera, one of the first movies I remember watching with him. Both Dexter and Breaking Bad coming to an end, shows I’ve watched religiously for what feels like all of high school. And of course all the pictures on Facebook, beach get-togethers and Santa Cruz runs and track meets from the last two years, stuff I hadn’t thought about until I accidentally opened my photos page.

It’s probably an extension of the nostalgia, but it’s also reality. I don’t remember another time when I’ve faced such a huge turnaround in my life before, and it’s incredible. It’s exciting. I keep saying that word, hearing it from friends, reading it online and in texts from my roommate: it’s exciting. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to get there. I can’t wait to start fresh.

And I am. I’m excited. But I also can’t help but think about how much I’ll miss this, these lazy days when I don’t have to worry about when I’ll eat or who I’m meeting or how I’ll study when I’m on my own. And it’s worse because it’s so hard to enjoy it, knowing it’s about to end. I keep thinking, I need to take advantage of this, and then I spend another day doing nothing because I’m afraid if I start to study more or read more or write more I won’t be able to hold onto this feeling of summer, of childhood, any longer.

And I know that’s not true. It’ll be summer right until the day I leave, and I’ve been wasting it. I have two weeks left. I think it’s time I kicked myself back into gear. Take that, Stuffing Childhood Belongings Into Cold Dark Boxes Where They Will Collect Dust for Years for the First Time Syndrome! Take that.


56 thoughts on “packing & the worst kind of nostalgia

  1. One of the most poignant moments of my life was pulling out of my driveway, heading to a city far away for college, and seeing my dad – a stoic Midwestern type in tears for the first time in my life. Everything was changing, yet in the mirror I loved exactly the same. The dissonance between my old and new lives was so startling and yet surreal, and I spent months learning that it was possible to be hugely sad about the end of one life while simultaneously embracing another. It’s like Walt Whitman said: “I am large, I contain multitudes.” These times are when monumental growth occurs. It’s scary, hard, and beautiful, all at once. Be brave!

  2. It might seem emotional now, but once you get on campus, those feeling will recede, only to appear again four years later. One advice I can give you. Travel!! summers, semester abroad. You will never have that kind of freedom again.

  3. I just moved after 12 years in one place and the amount of nostalgic errr junk I have as astounding. Even though I threw out a lot of stuff, the movers were still surprised at the amount of stuff. I’m still purging. It’s cleansing but kind of sad. I take photos of the stuff hard to let go of and that seems to help. Interestingly once it’s gone I don’t think about it again. My next challenge is my parents selling the family home. It will be…. Interesting.

  4. Going to college is exciting, emotional, and nerve-wracking, you summed it up perfectly! Check out my latest blog post on things I think may be helpful when making this transition. Best of luck!

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