How to Write

How to Write

Life truths as told by Brian Andreas.

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The Sacred Rac.

Traffic jamPhoto credit: epSos.de

“…People who walk are third-class citizens while those who go in cars are first-class citizens…Not even schoolchildren are more important than cars.” – Enrique Peñalosa

I have the distinct pleasure of helping run and support a TED Talks program on our campus. Given that we watch and discuss these talks on Tuesdays, the program is creatively called TEDtuesdays (I know, right?). Being a big drinker of the TED Kool-Aid, I try to make a point of watching as many talks as I can. Most of the talks I end up watching come by way of blogs or lists I find on the Internet, or from my own discovery. A student however, suggested this talk, entitled “Why buses represent democracy in action”. I’m glad she did, too.

This line really pierced my consciousness while listening to Peñalosa’s talk. What a heart wrenching societal critique. Peñalosa certainly is not the first, or even most well known public figure to make this observation. However, that doesn’t make his comments any less of a stark reality. After hearing Peñalosa utter these lines, I immediately felt a swell of unpleasant emotions come over me and thought about the “The Sacred ‘Rac’” story. If you do not know “The Sacred ‘Rac’” story, I would highly encourage you to read it as it is incredibly thought provoking. It’s a story that floats around many educational circles as a favorite lesson to begin discussing social norms and constructs.

Peñalosa, like “The Sacred ‘Rac,’” makes a compelling argument that we place too much reliance on our sacred cars. What the true detriment of the overreliance on personal vehicles, as outlined by Peñalosa, is the degradation of the human spirit – “…People who walk are third-class citizens while those who go in cars are first-class citizens…Not even schoolchildren are more important than cars.”

Living in Charlotte, North Carolina, I have witnessed and experienced first-hand a number of instances that reiterate Peñalosa’s narrative. In case you didn’t know, Charlotte, North Carolina ranks among the worst for walkability score in the nation. That means that Charlotte, North Carolina, because of resources and design, provides an extremely difficult environment for many to easily obtain necessary items without the use of a car or the public transportation system. If you do happen to make it to your destination in a reasonable amount of time, what overt messages do you receive from others who saw you stroll in the front door from the sidewalk, or step down from the city bus? I would fathom a guess that there are many who view the individuals engaging in these acts as “third-class citizens”. Often questions of that person’s status in society quickly emerge for those individuals who do not rely on public transportation on a regular basis.

Many developed and developing nations are at a crossroads for redesigning their cities, and restructuring their transportation systems away from a reliance on personal vehicles. Irrespective of policy reform, city redesign projects, and transportation referendums, there seems to be a need for a reexamination of our mindset around modes of transportation. There seems to be a need for a rejuvenation of dignity for those current and future individuals who rely on everyday transportation that is not a personal vehicle. When was the last time you walked or took the city bus somewhere other than the ballgame? How’d it make you feel?

-Kyle

 

At least I’m good at one thing.

I told her once I wasn’t good at anything. She told me survival is a talent.”

Susanna Kaysen- Girl Interrupted 

Survival is in the eye of the beholder; Some of us survive horrendous circumstances. Some of us survive high school.

This is my tale.

When I left my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin to go live in Minneapolis,  I already thought of myself as some what of a survivor. My parents divorced when I was young; I survived my dad dating everyone under the sun, a.k.a I met a lot of potential ‘new moms’; I survived living with two teen aged step-brothers; I survived high school and college; I also survived a random attack.

The reason my attack comes up now almost two and a half years later, is that even after such a long period of time I still think about it. I think about it in the morning when I’m getting ready for work. I think about it when I’m catching the bus in the afternoon. I especially think about it as I’m walking home from my friend’s birthday party at 11:30 PM.

When I lived abroad, I was walking home from a friend’s house when a man not much older than I was at the time (22, par de patos ( two ducks)) came out of the shadows of a near by building and asked if he could walk me home. When I refused his offer, he proceeded to punch me in the face and tackle me to the ground, choked me, and tried to steal my $25 Nokia phone (I should have let him take it, but my pride said otherwise). Thankfully a gas station attendant and a kind stranger came to my rescue and tried to run my assailant down to no avail. The police took my shaken statement, and basically assured me that they would probably never find the man who attacked me– It was far to common of a story with too many differing details and circumstances. I left the scene of the attack with a bruised eye and light marks around my neck.

Now more than two years later, I still think about what happened to me. I think about what could have happened and what could happen to me now. I think of the millions of people who survive horrendous things every day (not that my story compares to many of the tragedies that occur everyday, all over the world). For me, the talent of survival comes from not letting one instance dictate the rest of your life. Personally, I spend a lot of my time walking and taking public transportation. If I let my one attack damage me for life, I’d probably would spend all my time at home; with my chunk of a cat. As much as I like my home (and my cat for that  matter) staying at home because something might happen to me, is out of the question. Sure, I love it when some one can give me a ride home. But gosh, I’ve gotta put on my big girl pants at some point in my life, right?

I’ll admit: when I was walking home from my bus stop tonight at 11:43 PM, I had a moment where I was incredibly nervous that something would happen to me. But, then I thought, “No. I survived something once, I can survive again. Survival is on my list of talents… Along with cross stitching.”

-Mela

Neither safe, nor politic, nor popular.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I played a small role in some of the scheduled events on our campus for the Martin Luther King Holiday earlier this week. As someone on campus who had a role in helping a group of individuals, in this case children, think critically about the legacy of Dr. King, I was invited to a lunch the following afternoon. At this lunch, a handful of students, staff and faculty; the college president; and Ben Jealous, former NAACP President joined in a very candid and inspiring conversation about the state of our nation. Mr. Jealous had given a keynote speech the hour previously in which he spoke of his own journey in becoming one of our nations most prominent political and civil rights leaders. The man had stories for days. He was quite possibly one of the most well versed individuals I have ever met in my life – and not just on politics or civil rights activism. Greek mythology, Keynesian economics, biblical scripture, and pop culture spewed from his mouth with such precision and clarity that it was as if you were reading right out of the texts yourself. It all made sense. It was all necessary because of this quote from Dr. King that he recited.

Mr. Jealous told a story about when he was riding on the train back to New York while attending Columbia University. While on that train from New Jersey back into the city, he began to write down all of the inequalities and injustices in life that really upset him. After only 5-10 minutes his entire page was full of scribbled down words and sentences that signified anger, pain and hope. There were so many words and sentences that it was nearly impossible to focus on one. He closed his eyes and circled his paper. What was circled became his mission. What was circled became what has now made up his entire career. This was one of the first instances where he was willing and able to “take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular…” His conscious told him it was right. He knew this was the path that was chosen for him.

As someone who has grown up interested in a multitude of endeavors, never having one set in stone goal; but also someone who, in true passive-aggressive Midwestern fashion, does not stand up for myself unless truly needed, this became a very powerful message. Dr. King’s words and vision, and Mr. Jealous’ passion and spirit have inspired me to continue along the path that my conscience tells me is right. Like Mr. Jealous, I have some sifting of sentences to do, as likely many of you do as well. I hope however, that given the recent holiday in remembrance of Dr. King these words, his words, will inspire you and remind you that we all must take a position in our lives because our conscious tells us it is right.

-Kyle

A guided path.

I have been terrible with keeping on my blog schedule and for that my dear readers, I am sorry. I promise being better at blogging is on my list of New Years resolutions, and believe me, I am not one for resolutions. 

Before you read this, let me just say that sometimes I am asked/paid to try and inspire eighth graders. 

This is my first and only attempt.

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Thank you _____________ for the introduction. And thank you Forestview Middle School for having me. Now you all may be wondering, “just what is she doing here?” I’m not famous and I don’t have some sort of crazy talent—I do have a cat with 26 toes, but I’m 99.99% sure that’s not the reason I was asked to speak to you all today.  I’m here to share my story. I’m here to share my (limited) wisdom. But more importantly, I’m here to share my mistakes because mistakes are the things that help you learn the most.

Like ___________ mentioned, I am originally from Madison, Wisconsin; the land of cheese and the Packers. In Madison, to be able to enter kindergarten you have to pass a screening test where they test your reading abilities and your ability to socialize with other students. Now, from what my parents have told me (and parents never exaggerate) I passed this screening with flying colors, especially the reading part. On the first day of school I walked into my class and soon realized that I was the only student who spoke English fluently. I had been placed in an ESL classroom. Now, to give you all some context, my father is from India and my mother is white American. Both my parents are professors at the UW-Madison and both are English speakers. But, my name happens to be Indian and not reflect my mother’s heritage which sometimes presents it’s own set of problems. Although I was soon removed from my kindergarten ESL class, that one mistake, intentional or unintentional, marked me for the rest of my public school career.

In middle school, I was put in classes that almost always consisted of ESL students or other minority students. In sixth grade I spent my math classes reviewing multiplication tables and long division instead of building pre-Algebra skills. I can’t even remember if I had a science class. Seventh grade brought more of the same, and in eighth grade my math class had five different teachers because not one could make it through more than a couple of months with the so-called “troubled students” class. Needless to say, I was by no means prepared for my high school classes. I did well in my English and social studies classes, but I struggled every single day during Algebra and Biology. I was embarrassed and upset at how obviously behind I was in those two classes. Because math and science were so frustrating, I stopped trying; which meant my grades suffered. At the end of my freshman year I miraculously had a D+ in Biology and a C- in Algebra—and to be honest, I’m not even sure how I pulled those grades off. My parents were of course disappointed, but more importantly, I was disappointed in myself. Deep down I knew I was capable of more.

The next year, I started Geometry and Chemistry and believe me, I was absolutely not looking forward to another year of torture. Long story short, my grades were terrible once again. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I didn’t realize until my junior year of high school that I didn’t have to be the person that someone my first year of school thought I was going to be. I had the power to do well. I had control over my grades and my future.  Junior year was the year I decided to turn things around. I told my mother that I wanted, no, needed a tutor to help me get through Trigonometry and Physics. After working with Abby (yes, I still remember her name—big shout out to her) for a few months, I knew I was finally catching up to the rest of my classmates. Thanks to her, junior year also became the year that I started seriously thinking about college. College had always been in the back of my mind, but I just assumed that with my grades, I probably wouldn’t be able to get into any of the schools I applied for. But with Abby’s help, I felt like college was something obtainable. I applied to six schools in total, including my now alma mater, Gustavus Adolphus College here in the great state of Minnesota. Now, I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. When I visited Gustavus, the admissions councilor told me that because of my grades it was most likely that they wouldn’t accept me. That just added more fuel to my fire. Now I had to get in. In April of my senior year of high school, I received one of the best letters I’ve ever gotten; my acceptance to Gustavus.

In May 2008, I graduated from Madison West High School with four years of math and science under my belt. To this day, that is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. In May of 2012, I graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish accompanied by double minors in Latin American Studies and Religion. Getting through my challenges in high school allowed and inspired me to take classes in college I never dreamed I could. I took classes in Spanish, literature, art, history, and yes, even science and math. Because of my struggles in high school, I knew I could push myself even harder in college and not break. It was in college I realized that I was passionate about learning and wanted to share that opportunity with others. After graduation I joined AmeriCorps VISTA, which is like Peace Corps but within the United States, and I worked with students from kindergarten through eighth grade who were struggling in school just like I had. When my year of service was up, I was hired by the Minnesota Literacy Council to work with adults who for different circumstances had to put their educations on hold but are now ready to take those final steps to getting their high school diplomas or GEDs.

So now that I’ve brought you up to speed on how I got here in front of you all today, I’d now like to share some of my 24 year old wisdom:

 First, don’t let your circumstances, whatever they may be, dictate what you can or cannot do, or what you are able or unable to achieve.

Second, don’t pigeon hole yourself. There are a whole lot of interesting and exciting things out there. Choose classes and activities that will inspire you and more importantly, challenge you.

Third, not all of you will go or want to go to college, and that’s okay. But remember: Education is and will be the key to your success.

A man named Bertrand Russell once said, “the good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge”. I hope that after today, you all are able to discover the things and people you love and that the knowledge that you’ll acquire over the years will guide your paths.

Thank you.

-Mela

Mountains

I had a conversation with a friend of mine about this, we were talking about lyric writing and he was saying, he’s kind of at this same turning point that I was at, and he was saying “you know, when I sit down to write lyrics there are some words that just involuntarily come out of my mouth and one of them is ‘mountains’” and I was thinking to myself “how many important things in my life have happened atop a mountain?” you know, like, almost none… or none. Father John Misty on WTF with Marc Maron

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 A few months back I was driving from Chicago back to Atlanta. The route I chose had me going through eastern Tennessee, and down through the western most part of the Blue Ridge Mountains through north Georgia. I was excited for this trip because it was the first time I would be seeing the Appalachian Mountains and this part of the Blue Ridge mountain chain. It was a long drive. Mile after mile, hour after hour, the sun setting in a different time zone and states away from where I began, it got dark as the night usually does. I made it to Nashville, and thought about stopping and getting a hotel but decided against it telling myself “only four more hours”. Plus, I thought, there will be mountains.

What I failed to think about was how dark that part of the world would be at that time of night.

I have seen mountains before … but not these mountains. Queue all of the stereotypical themes about mountains being bigger than anything we can imagine and the romantic, poetic force mountains embody. As Father John Misty recounts above, mountains seem to be a theme on their own. Mountains are metaphorical. They are in paintings, songs, scripture, and prose. You can feel what people mean when they write or speak of mountains. Mountains have a spiritual meaning for a lot of people, myself included. This is a whole other blog topic but I have a hard time getting behind something as “big” of an idea as the holy spirit, heaven, hell etc. but what I can get behind is something as big as the mountains. You can see mountains, walk them, feel them, breathe them in and not have to imagine anything that might be. Mountains, to me, represent something sacred. Okay… this is getting too liberal arts.

Anyway, I chose the quote above because when I listened to the interview this idea really stuck out to me. Why are mountains something certain people feel can be so representative even though the actual mountains are not involved most of the time? I thought about certain songs or poems that have mountain themes, and wondered if the physical mountains had anything to do with their creation or not. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Two weeks ago, Kyle and I drove home for the holidays. The time I spent at home, in reflection, was significantly transformative. Our drive to and from home left a lot of time for reflection of the past few years and thoughts about the future. We listened to the Father John Misty interview again, me for the second time. This time, the above quote made sense and I think I realized why it affected me so much.

Rewind to the story I was telling earlier, of me driving through the mountains at night. As I left Nashville, I knew the mountains were coming up but did not know when I would reach them. As I drove the highway alone at night, I was both alone in my car and on the highway and not a single car or semi was around to be my car companion. I started seeing less and less signs for gas stations and restaurants, then I saw none at all. I was driving through pitch black. Suddenly I had a really eerie feeling. I was in the mountains. I was in the mountains, driving through something so big yet I could not see them because it was so dark outside. It was truly terrifying.

Fast-forward a few weeks and I am driving through those same mountains during the daylight. It was startling. The mountains were extraordinarily beautiful, were all encompassing, and went on for miles and miles. Being surrounded by mountains was comfortable and felt safe. Every new turn lead to a new view, even more phenomenal than the previous turn.

We’ve made it clear that mountains act as a metaphor, and here is mine: There are times in life where we go through these periods of pitch black. We think we are alone. We can only see a little ways ahead of us, and beyond that it is dark with no end in sight. We know that there are things outside of the tunnel vision, beyond the reach of our headlights, but we cannot see or even imagine what those things would look like.

Then something happens. Something happens like seeing someone happy for the first time in a decade. Something happens like the feeling of unconditional love. Something happens like feeling potential, like feeling safe, like feeling settled. Of shedding preconceived notions people have of us about who we used to be. Something happens like crying at stoplights.

Because of this something, the next occasion in which we take the physical or metaphorical drive through mountains, unexpectedly it is light out and we can see everything. We can see how big things are, how safe everything feels, and comprehend the sheer magnitude of how small we are in relation to the mountains.

In the quote above, Father John Misty said, “how many important things in my life have happened atop a mountain?’ you know, like, almost none… or none.” and my sentiment is the same. Nothing important has ever happened to me atop a mountain.

I guess it just comes down to what time you decide to drive through.

-Kady

Creativity.

JosephPearce

“To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce

You have probably seen this quotation before if you frequent the Internet, which let’s be honest here, is likely everyone who is reading this blog. You most likely saw it presented in some beautifully colored and designed typeface, and posted on your favorite Tumblr or Instagram account (see above). Usually I am not a huge fan of quotations that get presented in this format. For whatever reason I tend to have some sort of weird aversion to quotations that are beautified. Maybe it’s because the words always seem to lose their shimmer hiding behind fancy colors, typeface and filters. These words, however, seem to come to life more vibrantly presented in this fashion – likely because of the creativity employed.

Creativity is a subject matter I have been doing some reading up on. It is a topic I am very interested in better understanding, and it is also a concept I have been feeling at odds with recently. For those of you who are the armchair psychotherapist types, you’re reading into this correctly – I have felt on numerous occasions in recent memory like some of my passion and creativity has been nonexistent. Why you ask? Probably more reasons than I am even self-aware of, however, one of the biggest reasons I suspect is embodied in this simple statement: “To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

The fear of failure is, I believe, one of the biggest inhibitors many of us as human beings face on a regular basis. For many, it can become so stifling that one begins to second-guess things that were once second nature. As Pearce contends, this is precisely the moment when creativity evades us. Creativity has certainly evaded my inner-self over the last month or so. Through reading this quotation, I reaffirmed what I already suspected – I hadn’t yet lost my fear of being wrong through this recent lull of creativity. I hadn’t truly broken through the brick walls that the fear of being wrong can impose. More often than not, the mason of these brick walls is you. This has undoubtedly been the case with my recent lack of creativity. The process of tearing those walls down has begun, however, as new projects have infused my sense of wonder, curiosity and creativity.

I’d love to hear from you – Have you ever felt like the fear of being wrong has inhibited your sense of creativity?

-Kyle

TIme for Home

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Winter trail by rkramer62 on Flickr

‘Tis the season of giving thanks, warm and cozy sweaters, spiced (and spiked) drinks, crunchy snow if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in snowy weather, twinkling lights, and most importantly of all friendship, love, and a perfect soundtrack.

This week, I have decided to not only share a little quote that is pushing me through this next week, but also share a playlist I made for the winter season.

The past few winters have been lonely, bitterly cold, dark, and endless as winters oftentimes are. This year however, a little more light and a little more cozy has found its way into my heart and I’m looking forward to the holiday season like I haven’t in a while. Over the next few weeks I get to do some of my favorite things, see all of my favorite people, and share in love and warmth.

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” -Edith Sitwell

Our Thoughts Create Our World -Winter Playlist:

http://open.spotify.com/user/kadyjohnson/playlist/57VfsOyEDaFZu93InfHdfc

It is time for home.

-Kady

A Way of Knowledge.

BooksPhoto Credit: Hash Milhan

“A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war, wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it will live to regret his steps.” –Carlos Castaneda

I have had The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda since I was in college, and have never gotten around to reading it, until now. Well, kind of, I am admittedly only half way through the book at this point. The book came by recommendation from one of my eccentric Sociology professors who mentioned that it really changed the way he viewed the world.

The book is more-or-less an ethnography chronicling Castaneda’s interactions with Don Juan, who in the 1960s was one of the few remaining spiritual leaders of his tribe. Carlos Castaneda set out to mainly understand the affects of psychotropic drugs on the conceptualization and acquisition of knowledge.  Remember, this is the 1960s when the counter-culture movement was really taking form. What Castaneda came to realize is that the acquisition of knowledge and understanding is, as the title aptly coins, a way of knowledge.

As Don Juan mentions, “a man goes to knowledge as he goes to war, wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance…” While I can in no way speak on behalf of those individuals who have gone to war, this line especially struck me, as I had never thought about the connection between war and knowledge in such a way before. I think many would contend, myself included, that there are blatant differences between going to war and seeking knowledge. Western society’s traditional conceptualization of the two acts, I believe, convolutes the idea that there are underlying similarities, as Don Juan notes. Going to war is very real. Everything about preparing for war, both mentally and physically requires a great deal of clarity, fear, and respect. Again, most would likely not be left aghast upon hearing these sentiments. However, is not preparing for true knowledge, preparing to be a life-long seeker of the way of knowledge similar?

Would one enter into war complacently, without conviction, and overconfidently? I would hope not. So then, why do we so often enter into the understanding, acquisition and way of knowledge complacently, without conviction, and overconfidently? ‘With knowledge comes great responsibility’ is cliché – but there really is quite a bit of truth to that statement (irrespective of whether or not you believe Spiderman was the original source). So often, I think we forget how powerful knowledge is. Maybe we should more often start going “to knowledge…wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance.”

-Kyle

Notes from a former pack rat

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris 

I recently found a website through a tweet called Medium.com. I do not know a lot about the website, but I encourage you to go take a look through some of the blog posts. I really enjoy sites like Medium.com, it reminds me a lot of how Thoughtcatalog.com started out (before it got, well… boring). I love the idea of a site that acts as a platform for people’s ideas and reactions. This site is now among my daily reads. Am I late to the medium.com game?!

One blog post called “Eight things you can live without. Want to declutter your life? Start here.” Grabbed my attention, but not because I wanted to declutter my life necessarily, but because I had just done a major declutter of my life and was curious how others have gone about it. Much like the author of the blog, I recently had to downsize when I moved to Atlanta. I sold my car, held a clothes give-away for friends and some of my students, donated over half of my clothes, gave away appliances, dishes, furniture, left patio furniture and grills with the lions, and recycled and threw away everything else. I moved to Atlanta with three suitcases of clothes and a few boxes of books and memories and other essentials I would need for my new life.

It was terrifying.

I have always been the kind of person that saves everything. Everything from notes since high school, cd’s and concert tickets, t-shirts, Knick-knacks, magazines, furniture, programs from plays, jewelry… so much stuff! I was absolutely a pack rat. I get these tendencies from my family who save and acquire things of all sorts.

It was also tremendously exciting!

I was forced to really sit down and assess what I needed vs. what was just stuff. I additionally used this as an opportunity to imagine my new life in Atlanta and how I could create a space that was new, inspiring, and a retreat from long days on the road.  It has been a long few months making my apartment feel like “home”, but little by little it is getting there.

I thought the “Eight Things you can live without” which include memorabilia, t-shirts, CDs and DVDs, books, sporting equipment, bags and baggage, kitchen gadgets, and things that are neither useful nor beautiful were pretty spot on if I had to create a list myself (well… all but one, you will see later!). I decided to do just that, except put a different spin on the list. Instead of saying what you can live without, the following is my list of things you cannot live without. Please add your own! I’m sure other people would love to hear what is important to you!

Things you cannot live without:

1)   Books

Books, in my opinion, are the perfect way to fill a space. I am very skeptical of people who do not have books that are important to them displayed proudly for all to see. Books are a conversation piece, an escape for lonely days, a way to share your history with others, an outlet to dream about the future, a way to balance out an uneven desk, and they provide and endless supply stories, characters, and thoughts. Do not get rid of any of your books. You never know who may need them someday.

2)   Nostalgic cards

My grandma is so great at sending cards for EVERY holiday big and small. Some are funny and some are serious, but all of them are little pieces of love and thoughtfulness in something I can hold. I’m not saying you should keep EVERY card you receive, but if a thank you card or a birthday card has a message you want to be reminded of, keep it. If a card displays the love someone has for you in words they cannot say out loud, keep it. I have a few very special cards I will keep forever. One is a baby’s first Christmas card I received from my great-grandma Rose, another is a 22nd birthday card that said exactly what I always need to hear, the last is the first card that had always been signed by two names and then suddenly was only signed by one. They do not take up a lot of space, I promise!

3)   Things that remind you of people and home

If you move away from places you identify as home, it is imperative, if not crucial, to bring a piece of home with you. For me, these things are salt and pepper shakers and bibles from my grandparent’s homes, scrapbooks and pictures that are actually printed off and that I can display, a menagerie of coffee mugs acquired through the years, my assortment of birds because birds of a feather *snap* stick together, and a few pieces of art that I am especially proud of.

   4)  Creature Comforts

We all have those things that help us feel safe and comfortable. For me it is a stuffed elephant I’ve had since pre-school and my ever-growing collection of bulky scarves. Did my scarves take up a whole suitcase? Yes… BUT they also carry scents from other people and make me feel comfortable in my own skin wherever I am in the world.

There is my short list. I would not recommend downsizing all at once like I did unless you have to. It has been outstandingly expensive to have to replace the things I couldn’t bring with me (kitchen items, a bed and bedding, bathroom necessities, a couch, etc) but I do urge everyone to get rid of the things that are cluttering your space. It is so exhilarating to be able to start over and reinvent yourself through your things.

Now it’s your turn! What things can’t you live without?

-Kady