The move to Chicago was supposed to be easy. I still had very little belongings after purging most of what I owned when I went to the Peace Corps and major cities with big airports would make travel smooth.
Somehow, though, I had acquired a bit more than when I moved to DC. Although I was far from filling an entire UHaul, like when I left Idaho, I stuffed two suitcases and shipped three boxes. I was a bit disgusted with myself when packing – I was so proud of shedding all that I owned for the vagabond lifestyle – but I also conceded that the biggest thing in my possession was a coffee machine that my parents gifted me at Christmas. Besides Peace Corps and DC, all moved in suitcases, this was one of my easier moves.
I would need a bed and, lucky enough, I was able to purchase the one from the previous tenant of the room, along with a couple of lamps and beside tables. Ample closet space and organizers, meant I could get by without a dresser. The move, including finding a place in a city I wasn’t currently living in, all fell together pretty easily. Until, the day I left.
Four days earlier, I had packed up all boxes, rented a Zipcar and shipped them. All I had left was a big suitcase, my large backpack and a smaller one for carrying onto the plane. These three pieces of luggage, although the actual pieces have changed, seem to be my eternal travel companions. Cramming all that I can into the nooks and crannies, I consider myself fairly skilled in packing these just below the overflow point. I had forgotten about pesky weight limits until the airline told me that my suitcase was nine pounds too heavy. That was too much to stuff into either one of my backpacks, even if I could they were both full, so I had to pay the ridiculously expensive heavy bag fee. It was fine, I told myself, because soon I would be in my new city and moved in.
Yet, only one of my bags landed in Chicago with me. The other was lost wherever lost luggage goes, some mythical place without time or priorities. Fine, it would arrive later they told me, and now I needed to figure out how to get to the other side of Chicago during rush hour. Another hefty expense and I was there. I dropped off my one sole bag and decided to get that bed out of storage.
I’ve moved beds on my own before and maybe that was long ago, the distance was shorter or the bed size was smaller, but, after 20-minutes of pushing and pulling, drenched in sweat, I was only able to get the queen-sized mattress up three single steps, but I had three floors to go.
There were people outside, I could hear, and I waited in the storage unit until they were gone. I didn’t want them to see me huffing and puffing with the bed and, worse, ask to help. This was my move and I was determined to do it on my own. Many have joked that I often do things on my own and I was going to sleep on this bed tonight because I, not anyone else, had gotten it upstairs. If I couldn’t do this, I wondered what that meant about my entire life in this new place. My first day hadn’t been exactly a great one and I was scared that it indicated something bigger. If I could fight through to the end of this bed-moving situation, maybe I would then have reassurance that I could dominate whatever challenges comes my way in the next phase of my life.
I decided to try the box frame thinking the adrenaline from a moving victory would give me the strength to hoist up that mattress. It was slightly easier to handle the sturdy frame, but the low beams of the stairs and patio furniture on the landings (I was using outdoor stairs) added a few hurdles. I was nearly up to the second floor when the girlfriend of one my neighbors offered to move some chairs out of the way and, when she noticed I was on my own, she offered to help me. I couldn’t deny the reality of the situation and I accepted, then asked her to help with the mattress.
The rest of the move was fine. I assembled the bed, picked up my boxes and even got my lost bag back (well, as I type this, I am told it is en route). For the most part, I moved half-way across the country on my own. It wasn’t always easy, but major life changes rarely are, in fact the challenges are often what defines them, for the good or the bad.
Still, I didn’t do it alone. I had the help of some stranger whose name was given to me but I have now forgotten (Julie?). I am thankful for her and the lesson on vulnerability. I can’t do everything on my own and I have to accept that and help when it is offered. As I stand on the beginning of a new phase in life, I think that is something I really needed to hear and understand. I may be independent and on my own most of the time, but there comes a time when I need to let others in and not be afraid of vulnerability.
There is great beauty in being help, I just have to open myself to it.