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This past Friday I received a 30-day notice to move out. It surprised my manager too; the owner decided to renovate the house, so everyone, my manager, her mother, her aunt, myself, we all have to go.

Being forced to move doesn’t make me sad or angry. It’s just a transition. I’ve done this 9 times before. I know the routine. Go on craigslist. Set up appointments. Avoid the stressed out people. Also those with too many rules. Keep an internal checklist: personable owner, room size, location, kitchen privileges, parking, laundry access, etc. Have cash ready in the bank. Be prompt with the deposit. Put stuff in boxes. Move out. Move in. Life goes on.

I’m putting things in boxes now. This step is the most personal. I open cupboards, rediscovering these souvenirs of a life gone by as I prepare to take them to a new one: old photographs from an age when photos were still in vogue, programs of old performances, books read 7 years ago, action figures, random emo ramblings, old lecture notes from college. But as the boxes get filled, I realize the capacity of my memories exceeds the physical dimensions of the boxes, and I find I’m arguing with myself as I confront my greatest fear: throwing away mementos of my past.

Throwing an object of value away contradicts much of what I learned about saving. Saving’s importance was instilled in me at a very early age, when my mother gave me a box where I could save my completed worksheets from kindergarten. My mother was Queen of that kingdom. Her life revolved around respecting the value of everything that was given to her. Neighbor throwing away old clothes? Pack them in a balikbayan box; relatives in the Philippines will enjoy them. Not playing with those toys anymore? Save them; there’s a younger cousin out there who will want them. Promotional pom poms at the baseball game? Grab the extras left behind; they’re nice decorations.

Her penchant for saving extended to our memories as well. Walk into my parents’ living room and you’ll find displays of remembrances of the past 40 years, tiny trinkets from weddings, anniversaries, vacations and baptisms. Hugging the walls is a library of albums, more than 50, a remarkable photographic documentation of my family’s life in America. At least ten are dedicated just to my oldest sister, another ten to the other, eight to me. Her message was very clear: anything of value deserves to be saved and cherished. Now with three self-sufficient, college-educated children, my mother lived that philosophy to great success.

Upon my 10th move, however, personally applying my mother’s philosophy has had its challenges. Saving incurs a cost. A space to keep an object. Energy spent to recall it. Physical effort to move it. But the most valuable real estate taken up is mental. An object saved demands attention, a conscious effort to store, move, and utilize. So an act of saving implies a belief that the benefits of an object outweighs the cost of holding, moving, and remembering it. When one moves constantly, the cost of moving becomes higher, which makes the cost of saving increase, and therefore a higher level of utility is required to justify retention.

That decision is simple if the object in question is strictly utilitarian: a bed, a desk, a book case. But what if the object holds a memory? An old journal? A birthday letter from a good friend 10 years ago? Old phone numbers of classmates from a study group, some of whom were old crushes? What is the value of reliving a fond memory? If the object conjures up happy times, isn’t the object worth keeping? If it’s thrown away, does the fond memory die with it? And if it does die, am I a worse person for having done so?

I find myself revisiting this idea of physical manifestations defining one’s self-image, whether it’s a photo album, a trophy, a drug, or a number on a bathroom scale. Through this move I’ve come to greater communion with the subjects of this blog and the struggles they faced, fearing I’l lose myself while engaging in a radical self-transformation, for I find myself engaging in mental battles with every sentimental artifact I uncover, trying to audit how “much of me” is within this otherwise inanimate object, and how much of myself I would “lose” if I threw it away.

But this journey we’ve traveled, studying various subjects of success, suggests that true satisfaction derives from anchoring one’s self-image not to the physical but to the intangible, the spiritual, the infinite. To define oneself based on the desire to push the limits of human endurance, or to have a meaningfully positive impact on young men’s lives. Seeking the intangible provides a foundation that is not so easily lost nor broken. So if I focus on my mission, to tell impactful human stories, maybe I’ll realize that letting go of that letter won’t destroy the friendship that inspired its creation. In embracing my mission, maybe I’ll realize that reminiscing about relationships of the past, while entertaining, is far less valuable than living the relationships of the present.

So while I’ll try to preserve a few meaningful keepsakes of my past, I must remember that I’m moving into a home for living my life, not into a museum dedicated to it. The memories of which these objects remind are already living within me whether I physically have these objects or not, and if my mission is meant not only to inform myself but also to inform those I love, then I can freely release those objects that have served their purpose, knowing their release will provide a space for new objects and new memories that will further my mission.

So Randy, it’s okay to let go. It’s time to move on.

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