Letting go, moving on

staff note

I’m sitting in the middle of my room, my legs tucked underneath me, and all I want to do is cry. The vibrant and colorful posters that used to adorn my walls now lay flat on the floor next to me, carefully stacked according to size, the tape pulled cautiously off their backsides. I spent the better part of my middle and high school years meticulously acquiring and arranging these posters, curating a spectacular display that I lovingly described as “what it would look like if I threw up my personality all over my walls.” 

There was a “Pulp Fiction” poster on my door, a signed portrait of Bo Burnham above my bed, a tattered, hand-me-down “Kill Bill” poster across from exactly two “Scarface” posters, a Duke pennant flag and innumerable pop culture references lining my walls. Nearly every inch of my room, from floor to ceiling, was covered. And now my walls stare back at me, their blue-gray hue barren, emptied of the décor I had worked so tirelessly and passionately to collect.

Sadness bubbles up in my throat, causing my lip to quiver involuntarily, and before I realize it, tears begin to wet my cheeks. It isn’t fair. My parents’ divorce was the subject of my most unreachable dreams for as long as I can remember — though it seemed impossibly distant, it was always on my mind, eclipsing everything else. The freedom and empowerment that I thought would accompany my mom leaving my dad was intoxicating, a feeling so delicious that I thought I would dissolve of happiness if I ever got a taste of it. 

In many ways, the fallout from my parents’ decision to get divorced earlier this summer was everything I’d hoped it would be. But as more time passes, the more bittersweet it all seems. The house that I expected to be my family’s “forever” home needed to be put on the market immediately, stripped clean of all signs of life and day-to-day chaos. Divorce and realtors — those awful co-conspirators — don’t care that my heart flutters with pride whenever I enter my room and feel my wall decorations envelop me. To them, my posters are little more than junk.

A sigh escapes my lips. Dejection, exhaustion and confusion coalesce inside me as I pull myself onto my bed. I can’t even begin to reckon with what’s to come next: not only will my room be emptied, but my whole house, too, will need to be decluttered and cleared. The eclectic knick-knacks my mom has so lovingly decorated our house with, the hearts I taped over our kitchen doorway for Valentine’s Day one year that were never taken down, the DVDs that seem to line nearly every surface of my household — gone. Tucked away into a storage unit or a yard sale bin, or stuffed into a garbage bag, already brimming with countless other items deemed unworthy of the trouble it would require to keep them.

I remember telling my mom, a couple weeks after my dad moved out, that this was our opportunity to let go, to move on. She’d already summoned the courage to let go of my father — that was the hardest part — and our family was beginning to move on with our lives, which had been enmeshed in fear and unhappiness and anger for what seemed like centuries. Letting go of our house, as emotionally difficult and stress-inducing as it has proven to be, is a microcosm of that larger attempt at moving on. Though I hold my house so dear to my heart, it’s mired in memories that I’d never wish to re-experience, symbolic of the financial dependency that bound my family so tightly to our resented patriarch. 

Mostly, I’m saddened by how little time I was allowed to experience my home as a domestic space shared between my mom, my sisters and me, no longer weighed down by my father’s presence. I don’t think I could ever find the words to describe what it felt like when I walked into my dad’s closet the day after he left, finding myself surrounded only by sheetrock and shelves. No clothes, no guns, nothing. No physical evidence that he had ever inhabited my home. The bittersweetness of the moment washed over me — though the emotional damage had already been wrought, I could finally begin to piece myself back together — and I laughed out the warmest tears I could muster. For the first time in a long time, I felt safe going to bed that night.

Bare walls. I get up and hover over the stacks of posters and canvases resting on my floor. I don’t want to let go, but I so desperately want to move on — I can almost taste the relief that will come when I’ve finally freed myself from my material burdens. After a moment of hesitation, I stuff a few that display signs of wear-and-tear into a trash bag and shove the rest under my bed. I’ve shown enough strength for today. I’ll deal with the rest tomorrow.

Nina Wilder is a Trinity sophomore and the Recess managing editor.


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