Breakdowns

December 19, 2016

Chicago, Illinois

There’s a blue Post-it Note bearing the number “3” stuck to the bottom-left corner of my computer screen at work. For the last month, I’ve begun my mornings by replacing the previous day’s sticky note with a new number, counting down the days until I clock out for the final time at this job. Now that I’ve been into the single digits for almost a week, the number seems to be an accusation. It reminds me that I still have much to accomplish before I leave.

This past weekend, I spent almost all of my time trying to get my apartment emptied and cleaned. It’s been frustratingly slow trying to sell my belongings. Using Craigslist wasn’t particularly successful. Many people asked questions about items they were interested in, but very few actually showed up and purchased them. I was lucky enough to get rid of the bigger, more expensive items, but I was deeply discounting much of the merchandise. I posted flyers in my building, advertising the “everything must go” sale, but got little response. In a moment of panic and brilliance, I invited a bunch of friends over for a cocktail/hors d’oeuvres party with a silent auction. The problem was that my friends didn’t really need anything. So a few small items were bid on, and I made a bit of money, but most of the stuff remained, mocking me for my recent foray into materialism. Two Indian girls, students who live in my building, came up and asked for my microwave and rice cooker. I told them to put what they liked in a pile, and I would make them a good deal on the lot. They bargained me down. And then proceeded to ask for other items to be put into the pile without increasing the price. I’m a really bad haggler. They left happy.  And still I owned too much. The last thing I wanted to do was to have to schlep all of these items down to my car and then take several trips to a charitable donation center.

The next night, when the girls returned to take advantage of my horse-trading skills once again, I made them a super deal. I told them to take whatever they wanted, with the agreement that they also take everything else. That seemed to work well. I was now down to my bed, which a friend had already spoken for, and one bicycle. The rest of the stuff was personal items that I needed to sort through and decide what I couldn’t live without in Thailand.

I also now had my roommate’s possessions to move. She was scheduled to move her personal effects on Friday evening before flying to the east coast for a family function. But her flight was cancelled ahead of a snowstorm that never really materialized, and she was lucky to get a flight out Friday night before the blizzard conditions were to hit. That left me to do the cleaning and moving by myself. I am not at all upset with her, because the circumstances were not her fault. But now my last weekend in Chicago was going to be spent packing up, cleaning, and moving instead of going out and enjoying the city one final time.

On Saturday, as I surveyed the mess around me, I had myself a bit of a breakdown. I started to doubt my decision to move to an unknown situation. I asked myself what the hell did I think I was doing? Was I really up to this challenge? So I took a break and turned on Netflix. I have discovered a Swedish show with English subtitles about three different Swedish individuals or families that emigrated to Thailand, and the trials they go through. It takes place near Phuket, and the beauty of it and the charm of the people tend to make me remember why I am going.

So yesterday, I got busy and got everything out. A friend and I drove around and donated my overabundance of blankets, pillows, and towels to the homeless. Some people came and took items that I advertised on Free-cycle.  A friend of a friend brought his van and helped me move my roommate’s stuff in exchange for gas money and what was left of the household goods. Finally, around 9:30 pm, I exited my apartment for the last time after mopping the floor. The only thing left to do is empty my storage unit, then turn in the keys and parking decal. Later, I’ll sleep like the dead on my friend’s couch. Officially homeless now, I’ll come to work tomorrow and write a nice, big “2” on the next Post-It Note.

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