It’s the Little Things

My apartment smells like cardboard and glass cleaner. I’ve been sneezing for the last twenty minutes and if I squint my eyes and look intently, I think I can see my floor. I can’t tell if my throw-away pile or my climbing mound of packed boxes is higher, and I really never noticed how white my walls were until right about now, sitting and wondering if this room was always this big, or if it somehow grew in the last few hours.

I’m moving to a different part of New York and I couldn’t be less prepared. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve moved in my life and unlike other things, it never gets easier. In fact, I’d like to think it gets harder because I continuously accumulate more and more stuff. But like an evening following a stressful day and cooking in a tiny kitchen – I prefer to pack alone.

So, with a discovered airplane bottle of Grey Goose in the back of my fridge and orange juice, a green masque from the dead sea (thanks Mr. P), and the Best of the 80’s with some Sean Kingston and Adele mixed in (no judging of my musical eclecticness) – I started pulling apart and piecing together the contents of my tiny studio.

Admittedly, I’ve only given my apartment a thorough and heavy-duty cleaning once or twice in the entire time I’ve lived here. As my life become increasingly fuller and I found myself distracted from my address, I let things sit around and I forgot my in-the-moment organizing habits. I collect antique cigar boxes for decoration and occasionally for storage, and such a collection usually leads to random discoveries as well as many searches that leave me empty-handed. In a rush and without a conscious thought, I’ve tucked away things for safe-keeping and then kept myself away from them for months.

But maybe that’s the fun with boxes anyways, you open them and never know quite what you’ll find. Luckily for me, the surprise has never been a cockroach in an empty wooden container, but some findings I found yesterday were almost as scary.

Or at least, when I first saw them, I thought they’d be.

Unknowingly, we all attach emotion and sentiments to objects. It is why we started having “ex-boxes” in high school, to keep us from lingering over a lost love. Or the reason why as children, we grow attached to a blanket, a teddy bear, or a doll and carry it around to give us the comfort a sippie cup or bottle simply can’t. It’s why the engagement ring is something so many lust after – the symbolic meaning that you’re taken, that someone wants to love you forever, that someone gave you such an expensive, beautiful, or historical thing that tells the world you’re to-be-wed.

But as time passes, our attachment to things changes. Or maybe, it just lessens.

As I was going through my jewelry, safely placing in padded pouches the ones that meant the most to me, I came across a necklace Mr. Faithful gave me, nearly a decade ago. Still in good condition and still the same mini spec of a diamond it was then, it glistened in the light of my lamp and I just smiled. When we first broke up, I couldn’t look at it,  but by the time college was over, I found myself wearing it without even thinking of him. When I packed up my pajamas, I came across a pair I threw on the night my mother and I had to rush my father to the hospital when he was ill. After a night from hell, spent worrying and pacing, and attempting to get some sleep on uncomfortable waiting room chairs, I almost threw away the cotton pants out of disdain. Once my dad recovered and returned to the same adoring man I always knew, the pants stopped being so difficult to wear, and eventually, I grew quite fond of them and even took them with me to New York.

I stumbled across all sorts of things, frames that have seen a cascade of photos, from boyfriends and friends to family and pets, year after year as new friends, men, or experiences changed. Outfits I bought for a specific purpose, ones I bought with the intent to be ripped off of me, sweaters I bought for the first day of school that somehow still fit, and jeans that will no longer fit, no matter how much weight I lose or miles I run.

I came across dresses I wore frequently when I very first moved, but now can’t bear the thought of wearing in public, much less in Manhattan. Books that I read while riding the subway to my internship or laying in the Great Lawn in Central Park or the quad at my college. Notebooks from interviews I can barely remember conducting and quotes from sources I can’t picture in my head anymore. Shoes with a half-way broken heel I meant to get fixed and a skirt I loved that ripped at the seam and I swore I would learn to sew for the simple fact I badly needed to wear the skirt again (that’s still on the bucket list of skills to master). Notes from Mr. Idea I saved because they meant something to me, the pennies I found in my window seal of this apartment, and to-do lists I never finished.

All of these things, in significant or insignificant ways, meant something to me at one point. Some words in books I read or places I went while wearing specific shoes, or people I met while sporting a tight number – changed my life. But it wasn’t the book or the shoes or the dress that made an impact, those are just reminders of the experience. And while those memories stay with us, the emotion we attach to objects that really didn’t matter too much to begin with, fade away. We pack them up in boxes to donate or to sell. We decide to give some things a second chance and we forget how good we looked in shorts and tights. We stop seeing items as things that hold meaning and see them for what they are: just things.

And like us, they will go on to someone else. Someone who picks it up at the library or bookstore when we donate books, or someone at a consignment shop who sees potential in an old scarf we couldn’t see. Not just stuff, either, transforms in the hands for a new person – my apartment will gain a different inhabitant in a few weeks. They will make this space their own, they will bring their own meaningful things, and set up shop differently than I did, and in a manner diverse from the dozen or more people who have called this place their home before me. In a brownstone that’s nearly 100 years old, there is no telling how many residents have made a home in the very place I’m sitting as I type this blog, in 2011 at an antique desk, someone else has sat, too.

But things don’t need emotion, really. Nor do apartments. They just need people to use them, to fill them up with life, to give them a purpose, and then to let them go. Onto to the next person or the next use or maybe put an end to their functionality. Even then, trash often turns into Earth that molds into something new decades later – but I digress.

The point is, the cycle continues. People come and go, and so do things – but won’t people always continue to collect things? Collect memories attached to those things? And then let them go as easily as they came? Of course. It is the little things that matter, but keep in mind, the little things will always change.

Following the Penny Lane

Once upon a time,  living in my sleepy North Carolina college town, a devastating emotional tornado swept the land, and left me in ruins in a place that was far from The Land of Oz.

It was more of a destination of isolation – where I could see the life I dreamed of, the streets I was meant to walk, and yet, I just couldn’t capture it. I just couldn’t get there. I didn’t have a miniature dog or miniature people to guide my way, nor a scarecrow, a tinman, or a lion. And though I hoped for the Good Witch of North to guide me to the direction of her name, I was stuck on Southern ground, worrying endlessly about my unwell father, mending the end of a love, and preparing for a summer in the city I had yet to determine if I could afford.

And yet, I found the courage, the heart, and the smarts to find the Wonderful Wizard that lives in a building with many windows on 57th and 8th. But not by following a yellow brick road, but rather by following the penny lane.

As if sent from a power beyond myself, during my sophomore year in college, right before my first internships in New York, I started finding pennies. Now, of course, I had stumbled across a penny before, and though it goes against tradition, my mother always made me retrieve them- heads or tails up. She claimed it was wasteful to discriminate against money because of the way Lincoln was laying. But unlike those times in grocery store parking lots where discovering a penny was a rare occurence, I started seeing them exactly when I needed them. No three clicks of my heel needed.

When I would start to stress over my lack of sleep and dedication to classes while working nearly 60 hours (or more) at the camps paper, I’d kick a penny across the tiled floor while grabbing lunch. When I went to the interview for the internship I’d be offered, I moved my stiletto to find a penny resting below it in the seat of the cab. As I pushed open the door to the building I would live in for the summer, I noticed a penny in the doorway. And when I returned to finish out my college tenure as quickly as possible so I could return to the Apple of Opportunities, the pennies didn’t stop falling in all the right places, at all the right times.

If I was upset over a someone who didn’t turn into a something, when I felt like I was never measuring up to what I convinced myself I needed to be, or when my insecurities outweighed my sense of intimate beauty – a penny would find its way to me. Most literally, at one point, when I threw up the sheets to make my bed after a romp I instantly regretted, a pesky coin flew its way to the center of my forehead, as if to say: It’s okay! You’re human, Linds.

And though it has been many moons since that Spring when I noticed the Penny Lane I unintentionally follow, these copper culprits still find a way to reassure me.

When I arrived at the doorway of my current job, a tiny triangle of three pennies pointed me inside the office. An hour after I signed my lease on April 2 the year I moved, I opened the giant bay window (the only perk of a completely sad studio) and knocked over a pile of pennies that were resting in the corner. The day I started this blog in a little cafe a few blows from my apartment on the Upper West, I went to unplug my laptop and someone walked by me and dropped a penny at my feet. They turned back to see what they misplaced, laughed, and said: “Well, I guess it is your lucky night, huh?”

And these one-cent wonders don’t stop at my career or my residence – they follow me in dating, too. When Mr. Idea and I decided to go bungee jumping together – at the point where we were diving right into love as well – on the platform, before I stepped 60 feet off into air, I reached into my short pockets and found a forgotten penny. When I met Mr. Unavailable for coffee in Bryant Park, the table we sat on had a few pennies laying casually in the middle. And when I met Mr. Possibility on that bus and we walked to Grand Central Station to catch the same uptown train, I picked up a penny crossing the avenue.

I had been putting off writing about pennies because my belief in their power that’s personal to me may sound a tad crazy to the outside world. People find pennies all day and we’ve all been taught they bring you luck – but that’s not what they give me. Well, perhaps luck is part of it, but mostly, pennies remind me that I’m always where I’m meant to be. That even if the road is jagged and it forks in places I’d rather it spoon, I know I’ll find my way to the top. And if not, I’m reminded I’m strong enough to pave a path where there is no road and create my own happiness. A penny may be just a penny to many, but to me, it’s a symbol that gives me strength. So yesterday when I found myself strangely plagued by pennies, I knew it was a sign to finally give them space on something they encouraged 193-posts ago.

Not feeling like my usual bubbly and energetic self, I spent the majority of work exhausted and pushing myself to prioritize and finish simple tasks. For weeks, I’ve felt a change-a-comin’ and unable to determine which wind will blow in a different direction, I haven’t just had a queasy stomach, but my mind has been sweating in anticipation, too. Knowing fresh air was the best cure for my daze, I took a break to soak up the energy I’m lucky enough to call my home. As I walked street-to-street, I looked down and saw a trail of three pennies pointing downtown, and so, excited by my copper angel’s appearance, I continued. Before my hour excursion was over, I found a total of five little friends. Reassured and humbled by the signs I felt were sent from fate, I returned to the magazine refreshed and ready to work.

And then, well-aware of my penny-obsession, Mr. Possibility who is currently overseas, sent me a picture with a caption that read: “Guess it is a day for finding pennies.”

Because I find them so frequently, which may be a testament to how much I waste time worrying, I’ve stopped picking them up. I figure, maybe someone else will find happiness in something so simple. Even if most of what we deem special in our lives is based on when it crossed our path. For me, pennies have become what clicking heels was to Dorothy – a way to feel comforted. To be transported into a place of peace.

I mean, when you’re not looking into Lincoln’s eye and turn the copper coin around, it says to trust in something higher than yourself. So when I come across them, as I do when I least expect it and never when I try to find them, I remember that while I may not know the rhyme or the riddle, or how long a season will last – I know there must be a reason. And if I doubt – I’m sure a penny will put me in my place and back on its lane that’s led me to right here, right now, right where I’m supposed to be.