Goodness. I Had No Idea Bookshelf Goodbyes Would Be So Darn Difficult.

From debating whether to go at all, there are now nine days remaining till I leave my beloved Vancouver and move to Toronto. And friends, the move is making my heart hurt.

Not because  leaving places and people I love dearly will be hard (that’s true but I’ve accepted it finally) but because I’m puzzled by how one decides what to take and what to leave behind.  During a trip to London in May 2010 Antoine Saint Exupery’s words “he who would travel happily must travel light” came to mind when I arrived and realised that tube stations don’t have lifts, and struggled waited for wonderful strangers to help me with my suitcase every time I took a train to a different part of the country, or transferred hotels within London itself. In those moments, I would look at other passengers with tiny bags going for weekend trips and admire how their luggage didn’t hinder their movement at all.  So it’s a sensible principle: journeying forward with relatively little physical (and mental I suppose) baggage just makes for happier, easier times.

Intellectually I get this. But my courage fails me with the thought of implementing it when relocating someplace new.  The logic still makes sense: if you pack lightly future moves are easier to do, storing things in a tiny apartment is less complicated and you save on the cost of shipping whatever doesn’t fit in your two suitcase allowance. But when your return date is uncertain, oh it becomes ever so much harder to do!

And I’m surprised by just how hard it’s been.  After all, I’ve never been fond of malls, I have such tiny feet it’s a pain to go shoe shopping,  and trying on clothes with a hijab can be quite an elaborate affair, so I’ve always thought I was the kind of person who had limited belongings. I was wrong, and as I examine the contents of my room, I’m amazed by the sheer number of things I possess. Books. Letter paper.  Moleskines filled with late night reflections, emphatic underlining and a complete disregard for paragraphs. Swimming gear.  Bundt pans.  Prayer rugs. Binders filled with extracurricular classes and beautiful essays (not my own) that I’ve saved over the years. I’m astonished to discover it all.

It is the books that seem the hardest to leave. Packing this afternoon, I looked at my well worn copy of Walden, my Urdu books and my copy of Anne’s first set of adventures (among many many others) and leaving them felt like leaving good, kind friends and teachers behind. Yet opening a box and collecting a mass of  ‘necessary’ titles wasn’t a great solution either; I realised that even leaving a full bookshelf behind, to take my required books means shipping a couple of boxes worth, and it felt troubling to be so attached to material things. In Pakistan people’s lives have been turned upside down by floods of the past few weeks, in other parts of the world people leave their homes at a moment’s notice, and the cost of postage could be better used to help people in genuine need. (and so for the first time, I’m questioning the act of buying books in the first place; they are heavy and hard to move around!) On the other hand, being on my own and not being able to decipher a bit of Tariq Ramadan’s words before bed might make it that much harder to adjust and create a sense of home. On the other hand (I’m an octopus apparently), how much time do grad students have to read anyway?

And so I return to my dilemma. Dear friends, what do you take when you move? Are you a proponent of the packing light approach or do you take everything you love when you go? Advice most appreciated.