Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Empty Room

In the course of my life I have moved a lot. My current abode is my 18th home, the fourth without family. Many of these moves have not really had much significance. A number occurred before I was old enough to really know what was going on. A few were just moving a short distance from one company house to a better company house. After that a few moves in and around the same city that had little effect on life. Then the move away from home for university, later moving out on my own, then to Japan and now to Korea.

The last two moves have been different to the rest, and have been the source of some sadness. The last two moves have involved saying a much more significant goodbye to people I have grown fond of. Moves before these last two have not entailed such major goodbyes.

A significant point in moving is the empty room. It has a finality to it that brings home that a part of your life is ending. That you really are leaving. A room with nothing in it any more is irrevocable. The move is definite, the end is nigh.

The significance of the empty room is almost entirely symbolic. The decision to move has long been made, the departure yet to come. But the empty room is a significant milestone. It means there is nothing material holding you back. No longer can you say "but all my stuff is here." Your stuff is gone. If anything, it is drawing you to your new destination.

The lack of material connection to a place also reinforces the immaterial connections. My apartment in Japan was just a place. I spent a lot of time there, but still it was just a place. What saddened me upon seeing the empty room was knowing that it will be a long time before I see anyone from Japan again, if ever.

That is the real sadness of the empty room.

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