Unpacking certainty and the self

Boxes pepper my childhood home, one in that room, two in the next, three in the other, stacked haphazardly, neither belonging nor entirely out of place. I can’t bring myself to unpack them. They’ve become, weirdly, an anchor in my life, in an era defined by change.

The boxes — each an amalgamation of stories and selves, priorities and mistakes — never move. A hodgepodge home for items nestled in the same unlikely jigsaw pattern.

Cardboard boxes bend, tear, rip, puncture. Typically a beacon of transience, of physical and psychological shifting, they’ve become my unexpected bulwark. The other day, I removed my Turkish prayer beads from their territory in one box. Immediately I had to put them back, to restore order in the one realm over which I have control and certainty.

I’m not sure where I’ll call home in a month, but for now, I’m sure the vanilla-scented pink prayer beads go between the jar of Turkey memorabilia and that novelty shot glass from two birthdays ago. Minute moments of certainty keep my overwhelming uncertainty at bay, at least for a little while.

In the past three months, change has pervaded my life, shattering a lifelong belief. “I like change,” I’ve proudly proclaimed up until now, touting my ability to move among cities, disciplines and languages (Arabic, anyone?) with grace.

Yet here I am, doubting what I considered an integral part of my being. Add turning 22, graduating from college, starting the best job ever in my favorite city in the world and moving back into my parents’ house, and every day begins to resemble a moderate existential crisis, an uprooting of my entire existence.

That’s why I like the boxes, why I sometimes wander into a room purely to admire their sameness.

Maybe, though, writing this entry is a step toward unpacking. With every sentence, every concession and admission, I unpack a bit of myself, realizing along the way that some notions, ideas and beliefs no longer fit — and that’s fine.

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