It’s late Sunday evening, the night before I begin my move across the country from Washington to Texas. I’m sitting on the floor of my nearly empty room, feeling out of place even when my eyes are closed because the empty walls are echoing differently.
The rain is falling gently, and my roommates are asleep or half-listening to back-to-back episodes of Bob’s Burgers. It’s comforting. I can’t make out any of the dialogue. But the animated voices and the thought of my roommates relaxing feels like good company.
First impressions matter. Last impressions matter too. And you rarely know when an impression will be your last.
Suppose you are where I am right now, moving across the country, packing all your things into a box van that is towing your car. Where would you put your most important things?
Put another way: What are the most important things that you would load into your car if that is all that you could save?
The list of items in your vehicle (maybe you can fit everything there) is a list of symbols and metaphors.
This is what is most important to me:
- My art (is it truly mine though? No. I am only a steward.)
- My plants
- My journals, letters, and film negatives
- My photography equipment (some of it)
- And a bag of clothes
I could tell you more about my boots and what they mean—my work boots and my other, favorite boots. Their stories are written in leather and patina.
I could tell you about each piece of art that I collected. Every piece has a personal story, and holds meanings—potentialities to be extrapolated by interested parties.
Each piece loaded into my car has so many specifics. But I can’t help but wonder, what is the sum of it? What is the gestalt? What does it look like as a whole to strangers passing by?
I’m going to pull my car full of metaphors and symbols from Washington State to Texas with a copilot. I don’t suspect that anyone will pay much attention. It is human nature to worry about unwanted attention far, far more than we will ever receive it. But there we will be, with my entire material existence neatly together.
But it’s always a metaphor. Everything implies a desire, a hope, a plan, a history. It’s just a matter of being a good reader.
In this moment, I feel as if I am a giant signpost. And I feel as if I have always been this way, and I have big clear letters over my head that quite clearly state my character. And I can’t see it myself. When people see my shoes, they see a few words written; when they see my eyes, they see a few paragraphs; when they see my shirt or jacket, they see my station in life; and the list goes on.
How curiously easier it is to read others, yet it is a lifetime’s challenge to make sense of the words in the mirror.