I 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.