top of page

To Things or Not To Things... That Is The Question

In a backpack, there's simply not a whole lot you can fit. Knick-knacks, full-scale paintings, and travel pillows never make their way into my bag. My YoGo mat, Hydro Flask, and snorkel do.

One more night left in this adventure of a gap year.

At yesterday's night market, I bought the first thing that I had in a while, a pair of earrings for 150 New Taiwan Dollars (5 U.S. Dollars). I hadn't worn earrings in the last 7 months, and I figured there was a possibility that my pierced earlobes had closed. With them on, I looked in the mirror at my face for longer than 7 seconds... for the first time in months. It felt like a loooooooong time.

I never look in the mirror on the travel road. I'll stumble through the darkness of 4 a.m. to put on my rash guard which I laid the night before. I'll dig out shorts out of my packing cubes to put over my tights for an impromptu football game, but never will I put on makeup or earrings, or look in the mirror for longer than 7 seconds.

I think I combed my hair a little over a month ago after remembering to rub in morrocan oil. Salty, dry ocean hair was becoming way fashionable in Timor-Leste.

In the mirror, I smiled at the new sun spots on the bridge of my nose. A deep-running tan has stuck. Many Taiwanese mothers have commented openly to me on the complexion of my skin. I am the sporty, outdoorsy daughter of Taiwan they abhor to adore...

The simple “pearls” make me look like the former, elegant version of Ms. Lin, except now she's donning backpacker's clothing, torn jean shorts, and a scandalous surf top for a quick and easy dry.

Then.... And Now?

In my mind, I'm transitioning back into the work world, the world of “real” life. I pass by Shida's (師大夜市) stalls of stripey button-downs, trendy glasses with colored frames and accents, funky overalls, and shops filled with bags. I feel my want increase, my identity shifting into another plane.

“Are you ready to be consumer again?” Old habits were asking without asking.

And I'm reminded of furniture shopping in India again. This time, I know better. I know to get an oven straightaway. I will at some point have to replace the overworn hiking boots with new ones in anticipation of hiking Guilin, to fulfill a childhood dream of mine, to be a figure in the paintings I saw growing up. I may or may not already be Craigslisting for a used scooter (the sacred mark of an expat made local in Asia).

To “things” or not to things, to begin a new life in Shanghai.

I flashback to life in New York, when I used to dress to the nines, a closet full of a lacy little black dresses, weddings at the Plaza Hotel and Rockefeller Center, royal blue suede heels with bright red bottoms, accessories with a splash of alternative to top things off. Things... I had too much of you, lanyards, kawaii animal wallets, you represented my college years and study abroad. Things, gifts given, that I couldn't bear to throw away. In the clutter, I thought I lost you, in between the drawers I organized everything, and then again, I found you.

I moved you, the first time, the second time, then the third time, the fourth time, until the ninth time, and you were all glory glory in your abundance each time. Not-so-gloriously, I chucked you across the room and threw you away into giant drawstring hefty bags. Each move to another borough, state, or country aged you. You shriveled and shrank. In sickness and in health, across countries, YOU, my dear, are now a mere 9 cubic feet squared, taking up less than a quarter of the average size of a New Yorker's storage unit.

I snap out of the memories of New York and flash forward... I know soon I will be picking up knick-knacks from the local market, decorating a quirky loft apartment, perhaps in the French concession. Soon, I will crush my own chips from chocolate bars and bake winning cookies for colleagues to the sound of Spotify playlists again on Thursday nights. I look forward, and I look back. And finally, I will have people over again, a systematic and therapeutic clean on Sunday afternoons, wine glasses laid out and plates and... new friendships and a home away from home again.

Most definitely, I will need those blue suede heels with the red bottoms back.

You Might Also Like:
bottom of page