I like to have roots. But you wouldn’t necessarily know it, looking at the past eight years of my life. In those eight years I have moved 16 times. Sometimes as small of moves as moving into a new dorm room across the hall. Sometimes as large a move as moving to another continent. But every move required the packing-up of things.

And when you have to physically move everything you own, it forces you to do either a conscious or unconscious inventory of everything you have.  Inevitably with each move I have left some things in storage in my parents basement. Things I didn’t need at that point in life.

When I lived in San Diego, I left behind my snow clothes and ski gear. When I lived in Switzerland, I left behind almost everything because I only got to take two suitcases.

And currently, I’ve gotten rid of almost all of my things except what could fit into my Toyota Camry, and the few boxes and things that are left are stacked neatly in two shelves in storage unit in California.

With each move, I often get rid of some of the things I own simply because I want to downsize and I’ve determined that I don’t really need them anymore. Even above and beyond that, usually I’ll end up storing something somewhere, forgetting about it, doing life without missing it at all for a while. And then when I stumble upon it again, I realize that while I didn’t think I could get rid of it when I had put it in storage, I in fact don’t need it or even want it as much as I once thought I did.

Now I’m preparing to move into a more permanent space here in Wichita soon, and it has me thinking about the things I’ve lost along the way, though.

There are some possessions that we lose in life that we didn’t want to get rid of. We’re either forced to let them go, or they simply get misplaced or lost along the way.

When I was little, I didn’t have the typical “blankey,” teddy bear, or baby doll that I toddled around with – I had my “little pillow.” It was a faded blue-purple patchwork from what I can remember.  It was soft and semi-dingy. And like it’s name indicates, it was small. I don’t know how it is that I got attached to this little pillow, but it was the thing I took with me everywhere I went.  Then when I was still really little, maybe three or four years old, I lost it.

I must’ve left it somewhere, but we could never figure out where. I was phasing out of it anyway, but I remember still being really sad over it’s loss. Soon I was given another “little pillow,” but it was all wrong – yellow in color, silky in texture instead of the soft cotton, and it was a rectangle instead of a square.  I think that yellow replacement pillow is still in the basement somewhere, but it’s only important because it symbolizes what was lost.  I didn’t really ever care about the replacement, and I soon transitioned into not having any “thing” that I carried around. I just played with whatever.

I had a lot of fun as a kid and never had a hard time being inventive or enjoying playing, but that little pillow was the only thing I was ever really attached to. And the fact that I’m still talking about it two decades later reminds me that while I accepted the loss and moved on, and would have no place in my life for it now anyway except the basement, it was still sad to lose it before it’s time.

The transitions in my life have taught me that – have shown me that sometimes I need to downsize. To strip away the excess. To get rid of things I like but don’t need. And they’ve taught me that moving on, and moving forward require moving.

Sometimes, though, in the moving process I lose things that I really didn’t want to lose. I can accept the loss, I can move forward. But these transitions have taught me that accepting a loss doesn’t have to mean denying that I wish things were different. I’ve learned that it’s still ok to be sad about them. Loss is a sad thing. Even when it’s just a little pillow.

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Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

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