Signs of Life
A little over twelve years ago I planned on moving out of my parent’s house. Actually, I started planning to move out around 16, (because when you’re 16 living on your own doesn’t seem nearly as intimidating as when you’re actually old enough to do so) but I began actively preparing around age 20. Now, lest this seem to imply something negative about my parents, please know, it had absolutely nothing to do with them – they’re awesome. I’m simply very independent by nature, and the idea of having my own apartment was incredibly appealing. So, about ten years ago I started preparing for the inevitable time when I would have my own little apartment and need to furnish it with all the things apartments need.
It started with some mugs… because well, I like mugs. Eventually, I moved on to other household items and ultimately I bought a cobalt blue dinner set for twelve. Why so many? Well, obviously I’d be doing a lot of entertaining in my new, amazing apartment. Eight is kind of standard, but eventually a piece or two would break, so it’s good to have a couple spares.
Because I had no immediate need for said kitchenwares, they were lovingly packed up into boxes and placed in my parent’s basement, awaiting the day I would branch out on my own and put them to good use. And there they remained. And remained. And remained.
Fast forward 12 years to last summer. I had moved eight times in that interval and only once, for a lovely year and a half, did I have anything resembling a space that could be used as a kitchen of my own. My boxes had followed my parent’s (who had since, also moved to Connecticut) and had been sitting undisturbed in their new basement for seven years. Not only had I never opened them, but I had actually been adding to the stash of unused items every 6 months or so as I continued my nomadic trek around New Haven County.
At one point, toward the end there, I seriously considered having a tag sale and liquidating the entire stock. I wondered just how much I had spent over the years and how I could have spent that money differently if I had only known I would never actually use these items. I even mentioned the possibility of giving the dish/bowl/mug set to my sister. At least then someone would have been getting some use out of it!
The belongings I actually lived with had been whittled down to my seasonal clothes, technological devices, a few books I kept around for the sake of sanity, and my instruments. For a few terrifying days, it looked like I’d be moving back in with my parents for the third time. (Again, nothing against them – they’re the best – but at 32 I don’t want to live in their spare bedroom anymore.)
Through a string of very fortunate events, I ended up in my current humble abode – complete with little kitchenette just for me. It was with bittersweet emotions that I unpacked the many boxes of household items I had purchased so long ago. I was so thankful to have them, but they were also a vivid reminder of many plans and dreams that never came to fruition. They were the style I liked when I was in college, not necessarily what I would have purchased now. They were “proof” that I had failed in some respects, while at the same time a symbol of hope realized, eventually.
Today, four months later, I found the first chip in my set. It was on the edge of one of the bowls. At first, I thought it was just something stuck to the side, but when I went to get it off, I realized that it was indeed a chip. My first inclination was to be sad. Then I considered throwing it out and grabbing one of the spares still at my parent’s house next time I was there.
But then I was struck by a surprisingly peaceful thought: that chip is a sign of use, a sign of life. It shows that these bowls are fulfilling the purpose for which they were made and purchased. It means I cook around them, and eat from them, and wash them after. It means I’m being provided for, that I have food to eat, a place to keep them, and a roof over my head.
That chip shows that I’m alive, and more than that, I’m living.
Overly dramatic? Possibly. But if you’d spent that last decade of your life in other people’s homes, using other people’s things (desperately hoping you don’t break any of them) and you finally get a bowl of your very own, you might look at that little chip the same way.
I’m really thankful for the experiences I’ve lived in my life so far. I think the fact that I was so eager to be on my own made living with so many people and in so many different set-ups the perfect lesson for me to learn balance from. It’s not what I wanted, but it’s what God knew I needed to conform me more into his image. There’s nothing quite like living with other people to reveal just how much inside you still needs sanctification.
So, tonight, I’m thankful for my chipped bowl. I’m thankful that I have it, that I get to use it, and that there are 11 more waiting to be broken in their turn. In some strange way, I’m looking forward to it.