He was a wanderer, and that only makes it harder to hold on to your self. Because the thing about wandering is you don’t put down roots, and without roots, without history, without stories of who you are and where you came from and how you fit in, you can slip out of context. -Charles de Lint
Back when I was always moving and never travelling, I had boxes of things that I kept just to remind me of who I had been. There were letters, postcards, love notes. I’d flip through and pull out something randomly: a marriage proposal from a truck driver who wasn’t brave enough to ask in person, a poem from an old lover, a piece of paper my little sister sent me one time before she didn’t speak to me for a year all folded up with the words “fuck you” centered perfectly in the middle. There was a sixteen page letter from a silly boy who wanted to save my soul, a sweet letter from a woman who adopted me in the desert, and an envelope of lavendar that I would pass under my nose.
There were pictures. Baby me in a box on the woodstove, dogs, my baby sister. People I’ve loved sleeping, I always used to take pictures of people while they were asleep. My dogs in different houses I’ve lived in, that kind of thing.
Then there was The Envelope. Pictures of my bruises, medical reports, court transcripts, motions for this and that, affidavits, a protection order, all that stuff.
And, of course, old journals. I’d open one randomly to a page in the middle and read what I wrote when I was sixteen, living in the cab of a truck for the winter, or when I was hitchiking back and forth and back and forth in the middle of nowhere, Arizona trying to fix the dodge ness monster. Back then, I never wrote in my journal when I was happy.
When I moved into the bus I kept all that stuff in one box under the bed. It was there, but it was so buried that I never really got to it. When I moved into the van there simply wasn’t room and I left the box behind in the desert with the bus and the old lover. I kept a photo album, but it’s wedged in a drawer behind jars of canned food.
I realized just now that it’s been almost two years since I’ve looked through all that crap that I was afraid to let go of. Contrary to what I must have thought, and what Charles de Lint said, I haven’t lost myself without these things to remind me. I’ve become more and more myself every day.
(For this, I have van dwelling to thank.)