If you were stranded on…

I come from a long line of worriers. Women who’ve perfected the art of double- and triple-checking locked doors, repeatedly asking “are you sure?” until rage or frustration sets in, and quickly jumping from the most benign scenario to the world’s worst personal apocalypse. Frankly, it’s a skill.

As a little kid, there was something cozy in the fear I felt during hurricane season. I’d watch my mother use rope to tie down our outdoor furniture and drag everything else that wasn’t bolted down inside. I think it was a confirmation of one of my most deep-seated instincts: in a fight between me and Mother Nature, Mother Nature would always win. So humbly offering her my respect will always behoove me.

I live in a basement apartment in Hoboken, which is also known as “that which was once completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.” After some pretty bad rain on Tuesday and a mish-mosh of dire and not-so-dire predictions around Hurricane Joaquin, I decided to pack up and head further inland and above ground.

Over the past month, I’ve been eschewing my sentimentality in favor of only surrounding myself with things I absolutely need or absolutely cannot part with. Much to my surprise, I’ve donated more than half of my books which for most people is probably the equivalent of donating an arm or a leg to science.

So as I packed, I realized there wasn’t much in my apartment I was worried about. In a weird way, I’m happy to know that I’m in a mental place where there’s very few material things I’m intrinsically attached to. The act of packing things that you “can’t live without,” however, is an interesting exercise in priorities and sense of self.

At this moment, I was somewhat surprised, and also not surprised at all, by the few things I took with me.

JournalMy poetry journal I started when I was about fifteen or sixteen. I’ve long since run out of pages, and at least half of it is comprised of poems I printed out for workshops and the like, pages that are now stuck and folded in between the front and back covers. I never digitized any of the writing I did by hand, so I’ve always taken extra care of “my poems.”

In college, it even became a joke amongst my friends since I would keep my journal in the trunk of my car, just in case. I had this awful, unrealistic fear that the dorm might burn down since, of all the college courses offered on campuses around the world, How Not to Burn Popcorn in the Microwave 101 never seemed to be covered in any of them.

My undergraduate thesis and a few other magazines I was published in. After completing a thesis, Drew University creates two bound copies: one for the writer and a second copy that goes the school library. Of course I have a copy online, but flipping through each page reminds me of all of those hours of interviewing, researching, editing, coding, and analyzing. The subject, childbirth and reproductive health, was and is so close to my heart and it’s something I’ll always be really proud of.

My Cristo Redentor statue that was given as a touching gift during my touching trip to Brazil last month. For the past month, I’ve been working on going back to Brazil and this guy serves as a sweet reminder that it’s worth the effort.

Photos of my great-grandparents who always felt like mythological figures to me. I was lucky that I had the opportunity to know them well, but even as a kid I think I saw in them their in-between status, their bridging of two-cultures as first-born Americans in an immigrant family. They grew up in the United States, but often spoke Italian with each other — unsurprisingly, especially when they argued. I’ve always loved the story of how they met, and seeing these pictures of them when they were young reminds me of all the life they lived before I ever met them.

What I’m currently reading since, as a general rule, I never leave home without a book. Right now, I’m reading Women Who Run with the Wolves, which is an excellent throwback to my Anthropology studies, and O Pequeno Príncipe, which I suppose is a variation on my French studies, in its own way. I’ve been finding it helpful to read a, relatively simple, book that I already know the story of when practicing my Portuguese. Plus, with each page I remember just how much I actually really like The Little Prince.

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