Moving house is different to moving things into storage - moving into a house is exciting and though it can be hard work, you see the rewards in the short-term. When you have a storage unit, it feels like you’ve been put on hold at a call centre, and they have the same some play over and over again. Two ways to look at what it feels like to move on, both is the process of change, but one certainly feels better than the other.
Back at the old house I found photos, yes printed photos! There were some funny ones, like my Year 12 high school ball photo, or my 17th birthday in Paris, getting my portrait drawn at the famous artist square down the hill from Sacre Couer at the Monmatre. These were the days before social media, which makes you think how long before a generation won’t know what it means to hold and flick through a photo album, let alone taking a roll of film to be developed.
As I sorted through which ones I wanted to keep, a familiar yellow envelope fell to the floor. I knew it was there, and I asked myself, as I did when I found it a few months ago, whether or not to keep it. I took the letter out from the worn yellow envelope, and studied his familiar scrawl. The letter was typed nine years ago, written by my ex-husband before I left New Zealand. I was 24 and set out on my Asian OE, travelling through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines and working in China for three months. It was an incredible time of my life, and during this time I was also very much in love. I was also newly engaged.
The language he used to describe how he felt about me was very different from our text conversations these days, which is mostly a necessity to get the house on the market. You’re probably wondering why I kept it, and if he was reading this, would also be asking the same question. Some people reminisce to feel, for my marriage at least, reminisce to learn.
I wanted to read it one more time, to remember what it was like when we were young. To see how different we were. We did do most of what he wrote about - move in together, get married, buy a house. The one we couldn’t tick off was to be ‘together forever’. I came home earlier than planned, after five months I was back in his arms. At the time I thought the reason I came home was for him, but now, looking back I realised it wasn’t.
I came home because I knew that the longer I stayed, I would soon begin to find my feet, and living in a foreign land would no longer feel foreign. When was the tipping point before I could call China home, no matter how temporary? Would I soon give in to my natural wanderlust and not come back at all? He put a ring on it, but deep down, I knew this was a point of contention with our life together, even if he didn’t see it then. How long would he have waited for me to satisfy my craving to travel.
Back then there were so many places I wanted to see, and still do, and letting me go meant I no longer had to choose. I was never really going to be a stay at home wife, and I guess he saw that over the years, he just didn’t know how to tell me. He saw what I didn’t want to see in myself, and in a screwed-up way, helped me to recognise the woman I was supposed to be all along.
When we were young, we were best friends and lovers. Now that I’m older, I look back on that love, not in pain or regret, but with honesty. Like that letter, we set out on our journey together with genuine intentions, and as the years rolled by, that love didn’t evolve with us.
We didn’t quite make it to forever, but at least in our own way we’re both happy.