I leave places a lot, especially now that I don’t have a permanent residence. I’m not sure I could even reconstruct a list of all the place I have left since the ”Big Leave,” which was pulling up roots in San Diego and moving to Victoria. I don’t mean places I spent one or two nights, but places where I moved in long enough to set up my computer and unpack my blender and popcorn maker. Places where I bought several bags of groceries and hung up some clothes.
I love being settled into a new place. Walking out the door into a new environment, a new chance for discoveries big and small, is a genuine psychological boost, but I get a different kind of pleasure out of the last few days before I leave a place.
I have spent the last month and a half in a condo on the edge of Victoria’s Chinatown, and I leave tomorrow. I am 99 percent packed, which means in the last day I have handled and thought about pretty much every item I brought here. There’s something about winnowing down that focuses me, because once again I see how, even after having gotten rid of almost everything when I left San Diego, I still have too much.
How do I know this? Because I am at this moment acutely aware of what I never used. A few days back, yet another suitcase of clothing that I liked and was perfectly fine went to a local charity shop because it’s surplus, plain and simple. I am also very aware of exactly what I still own, a state it is easy to lose track of when you stay in one place and still have room to stash what you keep buying.
In the last two years I have developed a simple test for possessions. I ask myself when considering buying something: will this sit in your little storage unit where you can’t easily get at it, or will you haul it from place to place every time you move? Those are the only two options, and I don’t buy much anymore because neither sounds that great.
The other thing I take perhaps a slightly weird pleasure in is figuring out how to walk out of a place with zero remaining food. My meals get very strange toward the end—tonight’s dinner was a bowl of frozen blueberries and sweetened goat cheese, and lunch was a salad made with almost every last tidbit in the fridge. I do have avocados and some Parmesan cheese to take with me tomorrow, so I am hearing the “fail’ buzzer in my head. Really, the empty fridge is just a fun game anyway.
So now I am sitting here, cupboards, closets and drawers empty. After I do a little cleaning tomorrow, it will be as if I were never here. That’s something to think about too, how we vanish from the places we leave. How the only thing we really take everywhere is ourself. How tomorrow I will bring myself somewhere else and be present there.
And that brings me to the last thing I learned in the place I leave tomorrow. I wanted to live in this area at least for a little while since I moved to Victoria. I envisioned in particular all the Asian restaurants I would try, and I did close to zero of that. A few days ago, I thought about all the great menus I’d read in windows, all the opportunities I let pass, but then I wondered who I thought this restaurant-going Laurel was. I brought the essential, authentic me to Chinatown and she eats at home. I didn’t waste opportunities. I was just being myself. With a little Chinese take-out here and there.