Moving Day

exponent jan 2I spent many hours over the New Year’s holiday helping my son move into yet another college apartment. This time he is in a tiny studio without the roommate riffraff, a choice highlighted by bright windows and his own kitchen. His mood vacillated between excitement and trepidation. Mine was alternately gung ho and over it. This is his fifth living space in two and half years. Each time it seems to get more complicated. Moving is always difficult, but why are we not better at it?

Early twenty-somethings live in a scattered universe. My son was abroad for the Fall quarter and his belongings are equally far flung – in the garage, in every corner of his “also-known-as-the-guest” bedroom, in a giant duffle bag. He has begun to look at our possessions with shifting perspective. What was ridiculous and parental last year is quite useful and necessary now as it disappears into his pile. Things get lost, or are given away, or wear out. Just getting organized, gathering what will be needed to survive, takes days and accumulating charges. Then there is a small car to load, stairs and hallways to navigate, and my growing anxiety about his safety as we witness a rather dodgy business exchange on the sidewalk in front of his building.

I was consoled as we hung pictures on his walls. Any person who uses a level to align a poster with mounting tape can take care of himself. He cooks like his father, spreadsheets like his mother, and has a fierce, brilliant spirit all his own. He creatively arranged his books, clothes, and utensils in ingeniously compact ways. His confidence was contagious. He is on his own again, ready for adventure. I began to think this whole moving over New Year’s Day was a grand metaphor to embrace. Why should I need a class syllabus to feel the same surge of energy? Why can’t my mental space feel like a new lease? Why can’t each new year hold the potential of this new apartment?

Then I had that sinking feeling: oh no, this means I have to make resolutions. I grabbed a hammer and started nailing laminate backing on a cheap bookcase. Maybe a little too hard. Goal setting was ingrained early in my Mormon childhood. I considered all the “Areas of Focus” in my life and pushed for perfection in an orderly, balanced way. I remember posting illustrations of lovely young women next to my categorized lists of how to be more like their shimmering images. For many years, the process of moving my old self to a new self was holy work. I was comprehensive and hopeful. Which made the disappointment of writing the same things year after year (Exercise more! Read scriptures more! Journal more! Serve more!) even more! painful.

This year, crouched on the floor of a cluttered little apartment, half listening to my son delineate what spices are most essential as I puzzled out a cam lock, I wondered if making resolutions could be more like moving this child from place to place every six months. I could search all the random storage places in my heart and sort out my intentions, leaps, and lessons – what do I want to keep and bring into the new year? Throw out and start fresh? Pack up for another time? Borrow from others? My life has never been on an incremental trajectory. I certainly have not learned any system and if I did, it expired quickly. Some years the biggest accomplishments were reading two New Yorker articles and wearing matching socks. I can be reflective, but the plan needs to be simple and my expectations realistic.

I decided, in my son’s new apartment, that this year I will spend more time communicating with and building relationships with my friends, close and far. Not exactly eternal progression, but I could make a difference. Perhaps actually moving in one right direction is better than planning to move toward too many ideal destinations. My resolve weakens as my son stacks his homemade quilts on the Ikea futon. Maybe I could sneak in making more quilts . . .

I have talked to my son several times since I drove away and left him at his new place. I am savoring his chattiness until school starts, friends arrive and he becomes too busy to call. He loves his new home and is hoping to stay through the summer if scheduling and jobs align. For a brief moment I don’t care if we have to move him again in a few months. I may need the reminder.



Pandora spends most of her time tinkering with bits of words, fabric and yarn. She lives in Chicago with her husband and a pug. She has two grown up sons who have many adventures.

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16 Responses

  1. Ziff says:

    I like this post, Pandora. I particularly appreciate your conclusion that it’s better to try to do more incremental things to improve than to solve everything at at once, with an overwhelming pile of goals.

  2. New Iconoclast says:

    I love this post, as Sister Iconoclast and I are in a similar situation. I’m a little bit Aspie and have any number of unfinished resolutions and projects, unfinished mainly due to the fact that I sometimes have trouble starting something until I’m sure how I’m going to finish it. I need to remember how one eats an elephant, and just take that first bite.

    That may be my New Year’s resolution, to the extent that I indulge in such things. Just pick up the fork and take the first bite. (“Of which elephant?” you ask. “Yes, of that one.”)

    My son, 24, and his wife of 17 months just moved in with us last fall, and unfortunately his perspective on his possessions is that they must be retained at all costs. He also cooks like his mom and spreadsheets like his dad, which is to say “only when necessary and adequately at best.” He is finding out what he is good at, and we are trying to help him do so.

    This Christmas season has given me, mostly by divine intervention or accident rather than by my seeking for it, a taste of the peace you are finding in incremental improvement. I find myself optimistic and calm, rather than frustrated, as we move into the new year. Since I’ve been married for 25 years and will turn 50 this spring, it’s probably about time, but it is nonetheless comforting. Thanks for your encouragement!

    • Pandora says:

      I never imagined how hard and how satisfying it would be to help young people navigate adulthood. I love your comment about “finding out what he is good at.” Isn’t it so interesting that we are transitioning them to their next phase of life at the same time we are transitioning ourselves to our next phase? No wonder we have to chop our elephants in very small pieces . . .

  3. Emily U says:

    I really liked the image of you and your son working together – you paint a beautiful picture with words.

    Yeah, resolutions. I’m ambivalent about that word. I’m like you in that I can be reflective, but my plans for change need to be simple (and short-term, or they get crowded out by other things).

  4. EmilyCC says:

    Is it lame that my first comment on this post is, “I can’t wait to see your spreadsheets!!”?

    I love this post. I came up with a resolution that surprised me…to be a better Mormon. I always have scripture study, better prayers, Family Home Evenings on my new year’s resolutions, so I was surprised with this “better Mormon” thing kept coming up as I planned.

    But, I’m liking it because I’ve been using that resolution to figure out what I think a good Mormon does and doesn’t do. It’s an exciting and more thoughtful exercise than I expected.

    • Liz says:

      Haha! That was my first thought, too! “Pandora spreadsheets?! We should swap spreadsheets!”

      I am clearly part of the problem.

      • Pandora says:

        We love our spreadsheets! We make them for everything: college searches, road trips, craft projects, Christmas lists, books/movies/music – my son just shared one called “Needs and Wants” with columns like “Get from Home,” “Parents buy,” “WB buy,”etc. Dad and other son do not share this love.

        Thank you for sharing your resolution that allows for constant definition and thinking. Being a better . . . now what does that mean? It is so much more engaging!

  5. Jenny says:

    Love this post Pandora. It reminds me of my new year intention with my yoga class to practice vairagya, which is “the elimination of whatever hinders progress and refinement.” I love your moving analogy because I think internal organization and letting go are essential before we can move forward in our lives. I feel as you do, that my new year resolutions have always been about adding to my already crazy life. This year, I am focusing on letting go and simplifying. That’s not easy. I laughed when you said you almost lost resolve when you saw the quilts! Funny human nature.

  6. Liz says:

    I think you should totally resolve to quilt more. Life’s too short.

  7. X2 Dora says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post! In general, I tend to think of moves as “New Beginnings.” Not in the sense that I have to listen to tired discussions on white roses and gum, but in the sense that each move is a fresh start, an opportunity to refine my things, spaces, and life. In anticipation of moving myself later this year, I’ve been going through my things. I like my things, but it’s been revealing to think about which things I would want to keep with me (while I temporarily occupy a much smaller space), which things should go into storage, which things can be given away to people who need/want them, which things can be sold or donated, and which things can just be thrown away. It’s so liberating. More and more, I’m becoming like my mother, who eschews many things, and always wants more quality time.

  8. Caroline says:

    Just wanted to quickly comment that your writing is beautiful, Pandora. I’m struck by that every time I read a post of yours.

  9. Melody says:

    Pandora, I love reading you. As others have commented, this was my favorite part of your post: ” . ..moving in one right direction is better than planning to move toward too many ideal destinations.” Perfect.

    Also, the best New Year’s resolution I ever made was about 8 years ago — to wear more bracelets. I’ve kept it ever since.

  10. Rachel says:

    Pandora, thank you for this lovely and thoughtful post. There was a lot that resonated with me as someone who has done the work of moving approximately every six months for approximately four years. With each move I’ve clung onto some treasures, and said goodbye to some others. At times it has been immensely freeing and gratifying and sometimes it has been immensely sad and scary (not just the letting go of physical objects, but the letting go of the places and people).

    The place that I am at now, I think I will be at for awhile. And it has brought new feelings, mostly ones about what home means to me, and how I can make it a space that feels holy to me. It is a kind of work, too, to create that home and that holiness, but I am trying, into this year, and maybe next.

  1. January 18, 2015

    […] how the busy people make the time. Sweat it out, in your bodacious body right now.  And Pandora ‘s moving day post about restarting at Exponent, […]

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