My Life in Boxes

Someone once said we are the sum of our parts, but I often wonder what my parts really are. I’ve been on this earth for twenty-two years and I feel as clueless as the day I was born. I don’t feel this way because I haven’t learned anything, but rather I feel this way because what I’ve learned has given me twice as many questions as it has answers. When I was younger the question was always “What am I going to be when I grow up?”, but now that I’ve grown up the question becomes “How do I become what I want to be right now?”. All of the ‘what’s’ and ‘when’s’ of the past have become 'how’s’ and ‘why’s’. It’s like the saying “When one door closes, another opens.” The problem is no one ever told you that just because a new door opens doesn’t mean you’ll be any less lost than before the first one closed.

In the last four years I’ve moved away from my hometown in New York, I’ve moved into a house in North Carolina, into a dorm room in West Virginia, back into North Carolina, into a singular room in a basement back in New York, back to North Carolina for a third time, into an apartment in Charlotte, into an apartment in Concord, and in just a matter of days I’ll be moving into a house down in South Carolina. Each time I’ve shuffled my life into cardboard boxes, trash bags, drawstring backpacks, and a blue duffel bag I’ve had since my Middle School Wrestling Team never collected it and asked for it back. The number of boxes, style of clothes, and general things I’ve packed has been drastically different each and every time I’ve moved. So I ask myself, if I’m the sum of my parts and my parts keep changing, then who am I really?

I’m aware that people develop and change over time, so naturally who they are becomes different with every new phase in their life. You’re not going to be the same as you were when you were five years old, even if there’s something left over. I’ve seen myself change so drastically from someone who grew up and was raised as a boy who played sports and dreamed of being an athlete on professional levels into a woman with dreams of words that speak for themselves and a passion for tabletop roleplaying games with friends scattered across the globe. I sit here surrounded by towers of cardboard and duct tape trying to add up and identify my parts so I can figure out who I am, but this task is impossible.

My friends tell me I’m made of magic, they call me a queen in support of the self-esteem I struggle with every time I catch my reflection in a passing window or in the faint black void of my desktop monitor while it’s turned off. They whisper and scream words of encouragement and genuine support every time I mention my various unfinished creative projects that often seem more like distant dreams rather than realities at the tips of my fingers. They have become my biggest fans even though there are a million things I haven’t done yet. Do they see the parts that I can’t figure out? Do they know who I am better than I seem to know?

I know how many things I’ve talked about doing. My ideas and dreams are so grandiose that I often get carried away with my own visions and goals only to let them fall aside to bigger, newer ideas. It becomes an endless cycle of dreaming big without acting big. I don’t think highly of myself. My words never feel as strong to me as they do to others. My voice is like a whimper in my ears while others hear it as a shout. If my parts are all my ideas sitting in notebooks and word documents unfinished, then the sum is hugely disappointing. And yet I find myself surrounded by incredible, intelligent, kind, caring, beautiful, and wondrous people who gravitate towards me because of my energy, my spirit, my tenacity, and my drive. They are enamored by my ferocious will and inspired by the words that spill from my mind. This is no secret as they’ve told me as much, and yet I remain perplexed.

What have I done to deserve these people in my life? The friends who believe so strongly in what I’m doing? A partner who wants me to achieve every thing I strive for and wants to be by my side when I do? People who look up to me? People who rely on me? Have I really done so much more than my eyes will let me see? Is my vision that clouded by my own self-doubt and dissatisfaction? If that is the case, than my parts are far greater than I could have ever imagined and the sum is too. When I look in the mirror is the person staring back at me the misguided girl riddled with self-esteem and body image issues that I feel that I am, or is it the fierce goddess with eyes like glass and dreams made of unbreakable thread that everyone else sees me as?

I can fit my entire life into cardboard boxes and a blue duffel bag. So why can’t I figure out who I am?