On Packing One’s Life

IMG_2627One of my very first posts on this blog was a happy introduction to my bookshelves. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I bring you this image today. A photo of empty bookshelves is truly heartbreaking, especially knowing that these three were once full of great books.

But with the clock ticking on our final year in Japan, preparations for the move back are starting early. As much as I love to come home to shelves heavy with books, I’m in agreement with Alex that the books need to be shipped first, while we still have the money to do it.

Pretty much as soon as we decided that we were moving back I adopted a ‘no book left behind’ policy. Alex tried to fight this at first, but in this I’m firm. I can’t part with a book. Not one book. Not even the books I really didn’t enjoy. I would feel their loss acutely, if even one of my literary herd vanished. At least we both like books enough to place them as first priority of the things we move.

IMG_2626So yeah, boxing up our life of the past five years began last month and it has been hard on both of us. Being in our late twenties, this was really our first time living on our own, living together, making it work as adults do. It’s always hard to uproot oneself from one place to another. As items from the house you’ve become so familiar with begin to disappear, it really hits home that you’re leaving, that this place that has been a part of you for the past however many years is truly going to be left in the past. All of life is a transition, but I can’t think of anything else that more clearly expresses that, all at once, than moving. We must dismantle and pack every aspect of our lives, both material and memorial, from the last five years and ship them off to another country. Each box that is taped up and sent off leaves the house we’ve called home a little emptier and a little colder. Soon we’ll be standing in its shell. A soulless body ready to accept another family after us.

And I’m sorryIMG_2628 to get all sappy and poetic with this, but it’s hard to put these emotions into words. When packing started, Alex and I both fell into melancholy. Since Alex did the packing herself she experienced it more strongly. I think I’ve mostly been mentally and emotionally avoiding the issue, though moving is coming whether I’m ready for it or not.

We have moments of excitement, of course. We’re going to be stepping into a new stage in our lives: grad school and publishing for her and finally finishing my degree for me. Turning an eye toward the future helps keeps our spirits up while we prepare to say good bye to far too many happy memories in Japan.

And really, that’s what makes this the most difficult. The books will be waiting for us when we get back to Canada. I have no doubt that we’ll be able to make a life just as good if not better than the one we’ve made here. Together, Alex and I have managed to overcome some huge hurdles and carve out a very comfortable life. No, I’m not worried about the future, but what can I say? The present is pretty damn awesome as well. Japan has been and continues to be good to us. When the day comes, I’m going to be terribly sad to close this chapter of our lives. I’m not ready to leave, but some changes have to be made before one is truly ready.

So goodbye for now books. So long bookshelves. Farewell to our time in Japan. It’s been swell. I’ll miss you, but it’s time to move on.



26 thoughts on “On Packing One’s Life

  1. Now you’ve got me really sad all over again! I kinda just want to power pack so I don’t have to spend ages thinking about it. 😦 I also want to spend as much time as possible enjoying Kyoto and the places around. ….Man, it is going to be so hard to leave. v.v

  2. The attitude you show in your last paragraph is spot on. According to a statistic on a TV announcement in UK (for TV licensing, of all things) we change address an average of fourteen times in our lifetime. Since leaving my parental home five decades ago, I have had seventeen “permanent” addresses in four countries on three continents. Every move is a wrench, of course; but every move is the start of a new chapter, a new adventure; new shelves for your books.
    It’s going to be great!

    • I know that who I am isn’t based on where I live, but it really does feel like leaving a piece of myself behind. Like a metamorphisis, I guess, leaving a cacoon behind to become… I don’t know yet. 😛

      Interesting statistic, though. I have moved four times since having left my parent’s house. Five if you include my temporary stay with my grandfather before we moved to Japan. Each time it’s difficult, but each time I’m happy with my decision, after the fact.

  3. A bit like Keith, I’ve moved plenty of times. Having lived my last 30 years basically out of a suitcase, its only now, at the ripe old age of 51 that I’ve finally found the place that I will call home.
    It’s a difficult time, especially as the life you’ve led in Japan has been so fantastic but just think of it as another chapter (sorry) closed and look forward to the new one.
    An empty home is still your home until the final day you leave it, at which point your new residence will be home.
    Enjoy your final year.

    • It was really hard for me to leave my last place, even though I had only lived there for a year. It was the first suite I had after moving out of my parents’ house and it was small and new and fresh and perfect for just one person. when it was emptied out I truly felt lost. I know it’s not a permanent feeling, but it still kinda hurts. Looking forward to whatever is in the future, though. 🙂

  4. When I was 28 I’d had at least 15 addresses, since then (29 years) I’ve had 3, all in Glasgow. I think I’ve found home – I hate moving so understand your feelings. For me, I see no reason to do it again. Well, maybe when I’m too old to climb stairs. We have a lot of stairs! It’s also sad saying goodbye to your books but you’ll meet up with them again. Sending good wishes to the pair of you and hoping you’ll enjoy your next home as much as you’ve enjoyed Japan.

    • Wow, 15 addresses! I’m 29 and I’ve only had… seven, I think? I don’t even know how long we’ll be staying in Canada. If Alex gets a good internship, we might be moving right away again. So many changes, but I guess we still have years to find our perfect home. I’m hoping the adventure is grand. 🙂

  5. I understand completely. It is so hard when you still love where you live and what it holds for you (so many special memories) but you have future goals to strive for that involve another place. I am sure that you will return if you want to (but I am sure that it is never the same either) and that many other places will become your “new” Kyoto in the future. My first love was Cambodia and as I return this Xmas it is with some trepidation knowing it won’t be the same at all but still wanting to see it and feel it. Take care. Best of luck with your move. At least it is summer time in Canada and one of our most enjoyable seasons!

  6. Change is the hardest thing for humans to face, NJ. But your beloved books will be waiting for you when you arrive back in Canada, like old friends. I felt much the same when we left what was then Czechoslovakia after a year. We treasure the memories!

  7. Oh, that must be so sad. Of course you can’t part with one! It’ll be hard enough just to be separated from them. I hope your time apart moves swiftly.

    • Miles and miles and 3 months time in shipping! It’s unbearable! On the plus side though, When I finally open them up again it’ll be like a giant gift to myself!

  8. I love that line, NJ, where you say that all of life is a transition. It’s poetic and a bit of a pinchy wake up call to reality. Wasn’t it Buddha who said nothing in life is certain except for change?
    I try to think about that often, as I’m a total stickler for things staying in the status quo stratum. Working in my prior career field, contracts lasted about 6 months–maybe a year. Living situations were never a permanent thing. And now, I struggle with the fact that it’s a healthy idea to actually get off my writing chair and take a walk around the dining room table. It’s hard to shake my motto that eventually developed ‘change equals death.’
    But being without my books for three months?? Or longer?? I’m feeling a small panic attack coming on right now.
    Canada will be grand. I know the two of you will find joy wherever you go. I shall live vicariously through you. 😛

    • I have a love hate relationship with change, absolutely. When I get comfortable in a place I never want to leave, and I get really upset when circumstances change and boot me out. So far though, I’ve always been happier to take my life in a new direction, once the dust settles. I try to live my life without regrets at least, so that I can live better in the moment. Still, it’s never easy putting your life into boxes and moving on. I’m sure I’ll shed more than a few tears before this is all done.

  9. Good luck with the move back! When we made the move from the UK to Hong Kong one of my biggest regrets was leaving all my books behind (I left them with friends and family so they’re waiting for me back home) — and it was awful. We had no idea whether we’d have space for them when we arrived in HK (and turns out we didn’t have space for a bookshelf for the first year), so it was the right decision in one way, but if I could do it again I’d definitely bring them all with me and have the piled around the apartment. I think your ‘no book left behind’ policy is the way to go!! I’ll definitely be doing that whenever we leave HK.

    Anyway good luck with all the packing and the move. Opening all your books once they arrive in Canada will be awesome because you’ll get to re-discover them all over again!

  10. I used to feel that way about books (okay, I still do), but, every time we have moved, my wife has made me get rid of some of mine. She gives me that, “Really, are you ever going to read that book again?” Sometimes, she adds, “Are you ever going to suggest to anyone else to read that book?” Sometimes, I do have no good reason to keep it other than that it’s a book. I have had to learn to let some of them go. At this point, my wife wishes we were completely digital with our books. They do tend to stack up, and space is always an issue.

    • I wouldn’t be able to do that. I’ve always had a hard time letting go of my books. It feels like a betrayal, almost. I’m glad that Alex feels the same way… about most of the books, at least. She’s being more selective about her own books.

      • I used to think I couldn’t do it, too, but things change when you don’t exactly have a choice. As it is, nearly all of my books are in boxes.

      • Yeah, that’s going to have to be how things are when we moved back to Canada. At least at first, anyway. Still, when I think of all the money I’ve spent on these books, it seems like a waste to abandon them.

      • I understand that, too. Fortunately, most of the books I gave up were books I bought when I was a teenager when paperbacks still cost $2. And, mostly, the books got traded to the used book store. Of course, that won’t exactly work for you.

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