Several weeks ago, fortune found us hours away from Carnival in Barranquilla – site of the second largest Carnival in the world. Only Rio tops it.
After being in Colombia for 30-days, I can still recall the scene of my room the night before I left:
Prioritization piles, meticulously stacked and organized, next to my backpack. One, non-negotiables: headlamp, knife, travel adapter. Another, required clothing: hiking pants, several pairs of Darn Tough socks, rain jacket. Another, if I have space: an extra pair of yoga pants, denim shorts, denim jacket.
In the zona de cosmetica, where things like sunscreen, toothpaste, and insect repellent lived, so too, did my make-up bag. As wearing make-up had been a part of my daily routine for fifteen years, it was just as implicit as my passport.
I’m standing in the center of my room. Things surround me. Stuff. Material items. Yoga mats, Turkish carpets, records, books on sobriety, jewelry from Mexico, vintage binoculars, artwork by friends. And it hits me.
It hits me how much I leverage these objects to justify my self-created identity. And it hits me how deeply I pressure the tangible to communicate to others, and to affirm for myself, who I am.
On one shelf is a framed photo of my father and I holding a baby duck. I’m wearing a light blue bonnet and am no more than two years old. We’re both looking down at the new life, sweetly. If I had to hold only one photograph for the rest of my life, I would choose this one. Why? Maybe because it represents the tenderness and innocence of my father and I’s relationship, a dynamic that would extinguish in the years to follow, only to reignite once again. Maybe because it let’s me believe that my family is rooted in traditions, like visiting petting zoos, perhaps in celebration of Easter.
It’s in really looking, as if for the first time, at the hardly-used tambourine on the floor and the vintage binoculars I’ve never held to my eyes, that I see clearly how I lean heavily on these things, like a crutch. A crutch for interests and talents and skills that were always desired, but never actualized.
The tambourine reminds me that I’m “musically inclined,” albeit not a musician, because I never had the time to learn how to play. The binoculars convey that in another life I was a naturalist, a conservationist, and a defender of Mother Earth.
And then my eyes meet my meditation stool and yoga mat and suddenly there’s lightness to the weight of subconscious acquisition. I see these things as a natural extension of me; the instruments I regularly use to become a more practiced, whole, version of my self. These are the resources that allow me to continue to grow.
I’m in the process of transitioning my life, my things, my self from D.C. to South America.
This transition is teaching me that in letting go of superfluous things, I can shed attachment and damaging identity cloaks like old skin. Consequently, it’s teaching me that in holding on to things of genuine value, I am more succinct with my true, evolving self.
This transition is teaching me that in unpacking how I uphold my ego through a legacy of acquisition, I can unify the divided pieces of my self and tend to them with greater attention and conviction.
This transition is teaching me that in letting go we make space for possibility. This transition is teaching me that underneath my identity, is a self that is uncompromised and has never been more whole.
And so I stand in the middle of my room and I smile. I look at the narrative I’ve authored and the stuff that has held the pen, and I smile. I smile because I accept. I smile because I have faith. I smile because I surrender. All good things will continue to come.