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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

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