Getting Ready to Go

Twenty days to take off, and there’s still nothing in my bags!

This is the madness that goes through my head at three am when I wake from a nightmare in a panic.

I’ve piled my things into the corners of my childhood room. Packed and unpacked from the crevices of my Berkeley apartment, my sister’s black car, and finally the new purple suitcases from which I’ll be living for the next seven months.Packing is the easiest part of traveling. It takes me all of  a half hour and I can generally manage on one tiny backpack for any length of time.

But this time as I pack I find myself making endless piles, shuffling things back and forth across my room until I’m navigating the little space left around my bed like a rat in a maze. Why does it matter if I forget this sweater or that one? Why do I feel I need so many different pairs of socks? Why do I think it’s necessary to start this process almost a month before my departure? I’m not just taking what I’ll need to wear. I’m not simply counting out pairs of underwear and pants, calculating clothing to days so I can cut down on laundry cycles. How do I want to look? What do I want to need? I’ve got color coated lists for every category: clothes, electronics, toiletries, etc. I’m obsessing as if I’m designing the upcoming months, designing the self I want to present through items in a bag.

I’m trying to control. We don’t know where we will be living, with what kind of family, what classes we’ll be taking, what internships will be available. I don’t know anyone who is going. I’m doubting my Spanish ability, and feeling like I don’t want to leave behind the people I love so much at home. Everything is uncertain until we land, uncertain even after we land. The only thing I have control over are the items in these bags, of which at the current moment, there are none. Thus the panic.

It’s chaotic and soothing to know I have no control, something I’ve tricked myself into thinking I’ve had my whole life. It’s nice to not know, and to know that I don’t know. It’s nice to simply go with the flow, I tell myself. I calm down quite a bit, let the suitcases return to their position against the wall and go back to bed. I feel better, finally able to lie still. As I drift off to sleep I think that maybe I’ll go buy just one more pair of socks in the morning.

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