Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cleaning Out My Closet

I cleaned out my closet today. For people who know me well, this is a big deal. I am a pack rat. Or, actually that isn’t terribly accurate because I pack extremely lightly when I travel. My overnight bag to New York last week was my handbag with a change of clothes and my toothbrush in it, outside of the usual.

It is more accurate for me to say that I am a bit of a hoarder. I like to keep things with the reasoning I might need this later. How often does that ACTUALLY happen? Almost never.

It’s not so much the objects that I am hoarding. I don’t like the clutter, but I get used to it. I think it’s the memories that we attach to things. You remember the person you wore that horrible pink sweater with that you wore when you thought it was a good idea at age 12. The half empty tube of pink lipstick from my first skating competition (finally threw it away after deciding it smelled too much like wax and was a color I would never wear in public again). The shoes that you love and wore all the time but part of the sole has worn through and the other shoe is slightly too small and gives your blisters every time you wear them. The book you read over and over again while your mother told you to turn on the light because you were reading in the dark and going to hurt your eyes one day (she was right…).

It was nice to be so close to some of these memories again, but it was also refreshing to look back and see how far I’ve come. You realize that life really is constantly changing, and when things aren’t as expected, you haven’t actually disappointed anyone.

I saw some of my oldest friends last night. We’ve all been apart for many years now, but we decided to meet up in Boston and have drinks outside. Boston is in the perfect stage of summer right now – the evening was warm but breezy. And yes, we’ve all gone in different directions and couldn’t believe that we made it to this point (We met when we were 11 years old and were learning to tie-dye. Now we were sitting in an outdoor bar in Boston…) but some things were exactly the same.

This revisiting of old memories has helped me figure out more of my research work for Colombia. I’ve been working through sources like crazy, and each day the details of its history get more and more confusing. Some parts are so clear and familiar, and then there are others that never make sense to me. Some of my frustrations with Mexico jump out at me from the pages of David Bushnell’s The Makings of Modern Colombia. People, individuals from my past trips there stand out in my mind. Their kindness, their hope, their spirit that moves me to tears. And in the background is this extreme violence and the threatening undertones of a storm brewing beneath every word, interaction, and trip to the zocalo. How do we reconcile ourselves with the past? On paper it is easy to reject and throw things away, because pragmatically we know that forgiving, forgetting, and essentially tossing out the bad feelings will improve society. But as a person, how do you let go of this past? This fiber that ties us all together and creates a history that goes beyond what I find inside of my closet or the conversation that I had with a friend I made while I was figuring out who I was?

I’m giving it time, but I think this thesis work is going to be more than just a paper. There is a lot that I want to understand about my obsessions and illicit markets, but for many reasons Colombia made sense for me to study at this point in my life.

My heart is in Mexico. But I know that I cant be back there right now and do the things that I want to do. Colombia is the close cousin, with one arm open to take me in while I wait. She offers a rich history of a people captured in a single frame in the media and the secrets that all of the Latin Americans I know live with every day of our lives. There is a love of life that I cannot describe, the same kindness and the hauntingly beautiful and diverse landscape of a country that suffers the same multiple personality disorder of my own. This could be me letting go a little bit.

I cannot wait. 

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