It's weird. I'm standing in the apartment I've lived in for the past 7 years and it's the first time since then I've seen it empty. Bare walls, bare floor, no curtains. Yet it still feels the same. In that corner was my couch when we took the band photos. It was one of the 3 places I could put that unwieldy piece of furniture, but the shortest lived.
It's not a large apartment. I wouldn't even call it medium-sized. The word I'd use would be 'cozy'. 'Big enough', maybe. But for its limited room, it was still so full of memories. 7 years is quite some time, especially on a 30-something lifespan. And while it's easy to say goodbye to the place itself -- mostly because I have the keys to the new place in my pocket -- I find it difficult to say goodbye to what the place means. So many things happened here, good and bad, with people, also good and bad.
I look at the black spot on the wall and sigh and smile at the same time. All I really remember about that project is that step 1 was to paint a black spot on the wall. I neither completed nor remember any of the other steps. In a way, that's the story of my life. On the road I've traveled there's more than enough projects I started, but very little I finished. Sometimes I dislike that part about myself, but I also know it's just who I am. Enthusiastic and motivated, but also easily distracted and not very disciplined at all. It's definitely something I can work on fixing.
I look around my small apartment and as I do, I see some holes in the wall. Here were once paintings, photographs and questionably appropriated signs. All of those told stories of their own and I remembered them all shortly. See, the problem with letting go of this place isn't just that it has memories, but that those memories directly correlate with a stage in my life. And to say goodbye to the place, to say goodbye to the memories, is to say goodbye to that stage. To say hello to the next. And that's a stage of life I'm not already comfortable with, one filled with unknowns and possible stumbles. And while I'm looking forward to all the great things it may bring, I fear I may not like some of the less great things it'll also bring.
But goodbyes are hard for a reason. It's giving up on something. No, wait, not giving up, that sounds too negative and final. It's moving on. And however hard that may be, sometimes you have to. Something about an omelet and breaking eggs.
But I'm not moving on before I take something. Something that doesn't belong to me but in its own way holds some very specific memories.
As I walk past the kitchen with my bounty, a stick with a hook on it used to open the windows, I remember all the Monday nights this tiny kitchen was used to its fullest. It didn't hold much and you could only put two pans on the stove because there just wasn't enough room. This caused a need for simple meals, but those simple meals provided some terrific memories. Dinner and games with friends. I smile, because that's not going anywhere. Those guys and the dinners are moving with me to the new place, where the kitchen is not as spacious as a shoe box. I turn off the kitchen light and step outside.
As I lock the door for the last time, I feel like I'm okay for the first time in a while. The stresses of moving are falling away and I'm now starting to look forward to the next stage. I realize the memories won't go away. I'm only saying goodbye to the past.
I doubt the apartment owner will miss it, but one day, somebody will ask me why I have a stick with a hook on it hanging on the wall. And I'll tell them about the closet of an apartment I took it from and some of the memories that are linked to it.
But only the good ones.