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Room for packing, and unpacking

June 22, 2010

By Lorraine Ma,  Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University 2013′

One of the things that young people keep doing is packing, and unpacking. From high school to college, from internships to jobs, from singleness to marriage, from one decision to the next, they pack, and they unpack.

This summer, after my freshman year at college, I left three large suitcases in Chicago, along with two awkwardly stuffed bags and one plastic cabinet. There were a lot of things that I was unwilling to throw out, simply because. This cost me two trips to the storage place, plus angry warnings from an airline officer at the Chicago O’Hare airport for my nine- pound- overweight luggage, almost causing me to miss the flight back to Hong Kong.

It took very many days to make space for the pile of new material I had brought back home. This time, I had to empty out unwanted clothes, blankets, books and accessories that had been sitting in my closet and shelves for decades.

One of the reasons why it is so hard to throw things away is because of the implicit value behind an object. It is not just a t-shirt, not just a badge, not just a notepad. It is people that I have met, words that I have said, experiences that I have gone through. These are the things that, at one point, meant the world to me.

As I threw stuff out and reflected on the past 19 years of my life, I realized that there can never be true growth in a person unless you move on. Moving on means recognizing the true value of past moments and placing it where it justly deserves in the long-run. Personally, it means deeming certain experiences as worthless, certain values as rubbish, yet reprioritizing other beliefs as important and re-establishing a few ideas as my purpose in life.

I understand that packing and unpacking is a lifelong process, yet there is not a more vital time to do it as compared to my young adult years. With that, I donated and threw out two big bags of clothes, a bag of CDs and faulty electronics, a box of books, and a tangled string of ideas and concepts.

Now there is more space available for further packing.

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