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Bad Onely Activities: Packing for My International Move August 22, 2011

Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, solo travel.
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It was a Saturday morning in August, and all my clothes, papers, and miscellaneous junk had been pulled out of my two closets; now they laid heaped in large piles across my living and bedroom floors. My dog stared at me nervously from one of the few remaining free squares of carpet. I was all alone, and I was ready to cry.

Such was the scene three weekend ago in my apartment in Louisville. My mission: finish packing all boxes for sea freight and plane luggage for the upcoming move to Beirut. I had already packed the easy stuff – eight boxes full of books. I had already sold most of my furniture, as well as my car. But tons of work remained. My final departure wasn’t for another month, but the boxes (19 in all) were to be picked up on Tuesday, and I had two domestic trips planned that would keep me away from home for three of the remaining four weeks.

On this particular Saturday, I needed to sort all unpacked items into four piles – one pile for trash or recycling; one pile for charity; one pile for the sea shipment; one pile for use over the next month – and then I needed to stuff everything for shipment or upcoming travel into the aforementioned boxes or bags. Later, I would somehow need to dispose of the hills of trash, recyclable papers, and donatable items. Did I mention I live three flights up and have no car?

I needed to focus, and I needed help. But I was alone, in spite of making it infinitely clear to my closest friends for the weeks prior that this weekend was not only my second-to-last in town, but that it was the final push for packing and I would need their help. After receiving no voluntary offers of help or inquiries about my need the week prior, I posted a desperate – and public – plea for help on my Facebook wall Friday morning. Still having heard nothing, and feeling totally ashamed, I sent an email Friday night, once again reaching out to the six or eight people whom I consider my closest friends here.

Finally, by Saturday morning a few friends had acknowledged my email. But no one could help me, and some ignored the message altogether. I felt overwhelmed, but more significantly, I felt abandoned. I have lived away from immediate family for many years and am pretty independent. Truthfully, I hate asking for help, but of course sometimes it’s necessary, and I have gotten pretty good about asking diplomatically and not taking “no” personally. But facing my mess alone that Saturday morning, I couldn’t help feeling hurt because I had assumed my friends would at least want to keep me company since our time was short.

Maybe I should never have hoped for help with such a personal task. Or perhaps it was too much to expect my friends to understand what it might feel like for me emotionally as I prepare to leave while they remain. Even worse, it’s possible my friends aren’t as close as I thought.

But given that every one of the friends I emailed has never before avoided me and seems to like me very much (!), I am tempted to speculate instead that they may have a hard time imagining what it feels like to move without the help and support “guaranteed” by a spouse or significant other. All the friends I emailed Friday night happen to be in coupled relationships. While I *need* my friends for practical support and consider them family, they don’t need me in quite the same way. If I want to go out to dinner with a companion, I don’t have a ready-to-go partner. If I forget something at the grocery store, I have to go back myself. Some have moved locally several times, and while I’ve helped with the physical move, they’ve never requested packing or logistical help. Plus, there’s a strong Midwestern mindset here: I have few uncoupled friends in Louisville, and fewer still who have experienced long periods of being single. Many are regional ‘insiders,’ having grown up in the South or the Midwest, with families who remain in the area. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (I am a Midwesterner myself) – but I truly feel unusual in that I have been mostly uncoupled for the duration of my four years living here and have no family nearby. So perhaps I suffered that Saturday due to a lack of serious single-person empathy.

The good news is, I accomplished my task that Saturday and even enjoyed an hours’ worth of help Sunday morning from some of the same friends who left me alone Saturday. And I am damn proud of all I’ve done by myself. But I surely wouldn’t classify this as an enriching Onely experience!

– Lisa


1. vashti760223 - August 22, 2011

Lisa, your experience mirrors that of a friend of mine. The only difference is that she’s single with a child. Okay, two differences. My friend has no other housing to move into, presently. She needs to be out of there by the end of this month. I’m hoping that, as a single friend, myself, that I may be able to help her accomplish this task and that she may reach just as satisfactory conclusion as yourself! 😀

vashti760223 - August 23, 2011

To expand on the preceding, my friend is not single by choice. All of her friends, except for myself, currently have partners. She had asked one of her friends to stay at her house while she and another friend spent two weeks at her hometown, in the Okanagan. This friend would pay the rent on her behalf and help her pack some of her stuff. While she was away, her friend told her that she didn’t get the full-time job with higher pay that she expected, so she would not be able to stay at my friend’s house. Leaving my friend quite in the lurch.

2. Solitary Diner - August 23, 2011

Moving is a difficult experience in general, and having to do it all alone just makes it worse. I had a particularly bad move to my current location five years ago, as I left behind seven years of friends and a stable job to move to a city where I had almost no friends and no job (just a giant student loan for an educational path that I wasn’t yet sure I wanted to pursue). I’m planning another move for my training in two year’s time, and I’m filled with dread at the thought of having to establish myself in a strange city all over again – particularly without someone to keep me company. When I explained my apprehension to my (happily married with two kids) brother, his response was that “moving with a wife and kids is difficult too”. He had no real understanding of what I was saying or what moving as a single person is like at all!

Hope all goes well with the move and that you feel settled in Beirut before you know it. Your friends in the computer will be here to read all about your journey.

3. Charlie Fields - August 23, 2011

The positive is that you may not have had someone to help you, but you also didn’t have to give up a weekend moving all of your partner’s shit. I’ll never forget when I helped my ex bring his huge and heavy furniture up the narrow stairs of his new place. A few days later, he decided it was too big for the room so I had to help him bring them back down. Could I have said no? Did I ever make him do a similar amount of manual labor for me? Would I ever do that for anyone ever again? No, no and no!

I think if you want help moving, you have to call people on the phone or face to face. It’s much harder to say no to a person than to not respond to an e-mail or facebook post.

On another angle, the last time I moved, I was not single, but my boyfriend lived in another city so he didn’t help me. My best friend did, however. So being in a couple does not guarantee moving help!

4. i0land...... - August 23, 2011

Lisa – so sorry you had such a stressful time! Moving house is one of the 7 most stressful things in life – and yours was harder given you had no support.

So congratulations for getting through it in one piece, and good luck with the next few years!!


5. HMargaret - August 23, 2011

I certainly do understand about moving on your own. I moved into a condominium apartment over two years ago. I had no one to help me but the movers and Rent A Son. My only sibling is married and lives two hours away as do her adult children. There were no friends to help me. It was really odd taking a taxi to my new apartment as there was no one to drive me. Such is life. Moves are expensive for people on their own without any assistance from friends or family.

6. AMT - August 23, 2011

I hate moving with a passion, so I feel your pain. This last time I moved I hired movers and it was the best money I ever spent. I didn’t have to feel guilty about my friends doing (almost) free labor, and I was able to actually be away while most of the moving was going on. I did pack myself though, and I had friends come over for margaritas and packing support. I think packing is usually a pretty personal thing, so I didn’t really want them touching my suff, but having them around was nice.

So what I’m saying is…a lot of times people just don’t have the energy/resources to help someone move on their day off for pizza and beer. It can be helpful to hire someone for that. However, true friends should be there for moral support when asked.

7. clofa - August 23, 2011

Although I did get some help from my family (my mom mostly) when I moved into my home, I did feel a bit abandoned by my friends. I cried a bit the first night alone in my home, not because no one helped me but because no one considered it a big deal and there was no one to celebrate with. For me, I was settling down, but that’s not how they saw it.
But now I know better and I should have expected it, because here, it’s only considered an important move when you’re getting married; I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough once you meet some Lebanese people and understand the mentality here… But then again, I think Beirut is much more culturally diverse than the area I live in, so you might be luckier than I am :).
On the other hand, being coupled/married isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get help, as one of the posters said above. Most of my friends are coupled/married and they whine a lot about not having someone to help them or someone to go out with while I rarely have trouble finding someone to have fun with.

8. Onely - August 23, 2011

Wow, I really love the responses ya’ll have posted here! I certainly don’t want to throw my friends “under the bus,” and they definitely deserve major credit for being good friends! But I really appreciate hearing that I’m not alone or crazy in feeling a little let down by all this… At the same time, this move has altogether been an emotional rollercoaster — so many details to figure out, so many bumps in the road that have made me second-guess the choice — that I may have felt differently if the only complication/overwhelming factor were this particular step… Perhaps my response was strong because I felt there was little my friends could help me with *besides* this particular part of the puzzle. Meanwhile, they of course, have very little knowledge of everything else that I’ve had to deal with to get to the “packing” step.

Additionally, I’ve got to give cred to a very special friend of mine who *is* coupled but very practical and lives about an hour and a half away… I didn’t ask for her help initially because she lives so far away, but I told her about it when another small crisis emerged the following Tuesday, and she immediately volunteered to help, and was at my place within a matter of hours! So obviously this is not a zero-sum equation (being coupled means lacking empathy), and she deserves a ton of credit — for being a very important empathetic and good friend!.

Cheers — Lisa

9. HMargaret - August 24, 2011

I agree with you on this – good movers are well worth the money. My apartment was set up properly with nothing broken. It just would have been nice to have someone there for moral support.

10. Loneliness | Rachel's Musings - July 22, 2012

[…] Similarly, if i can manage to live a happy life as a single, people might think that i can manage a move by myself, too. No help […]

11. Emily - August 4, 2012

I sympathise 100% – have sat down with just the same feeling of being overwhelmed. I’m just about to do an international move – on my own, no car, I don’t drive due to epilepsy. It’s the first time I’ve had to move with furniture and I’m terrified. I don’t even have a new flat to move to yet – I’ll have a short time in the city I’m moving to to find a place. So no future address, and no future job either, so money is tight. The odd thing is, my only single friend just moved. I assumed she’d want help and volunteered repeatedly. She did at one stage ask if I’d be free the weekend of the move – and I said yes, absolutely. I kept volunteering periodically, texting…no request for help. Later I discovered that her parents had come from abroad to help her, not only move, but do work in her flat too. Makes me feel that much more nervous about asking. And it’s not so much “lifting things” – I’ll hire movers. It’s more the moral support…

12. Onely - August 4, 2012

Emily, good luck — I hope you get the moral support you need. My advice is that if you need it, ask for it, even if you’re nervous.

I will tell you that now, a year later, I survived my move and have maintained relationships with the friends who I described in the above post, and made many more here in Beirut. If you can, just remember that you will get through this and there is a (hopefully happy) future to look forward to!

— Lisa

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