I slump against my bed and stare into the square belly of my suitcase.
"Just pack," my mind mimics.
My family's been evacuated from our home in Ethiopia. I have one suitcase and two days to pack up 3 years. I pull bulky sweaters out of my bottom bureau drawer and toss them into my bag. It's winter in America. I cross to my desk and sweep all my pictures into my arms. I circle the room, collecting my African carvings, bargained trophies from developing world marketplaces. I take down my theater masks, wrap my grandma's knickknacks, fold my Indian bedspread, and haul them to my bag. The leaning tower of Pisa stands in my suitcase. This used to be easy.
Packing was a game when I was 6. My brothers and I would bounce in and out of our massive suitcases, restlessly awaiting our next mission: "Seven t-shirts!" my mother would yell, and we were off, pounding down our tiled Haitian hallway, ransacking bureaus, and fanatically pit-pattering back to our suitcases with an armload of clothes. Back and forth we ran; the suitcases never filled up fast enough. At 15, it fills too quickly. I'm cramming souvenirs and pictures into my bag in an effort to pack my identity. The effort is futile. I must have confidence in myself without my belongings. Now, for the first time, packing is being able to let go.
I know my creativity is not rigidly defined by that art project. I replace my grandmother's King Cole knickknack on a shelf. The smell of her hand lotion, and our chats over breakfast are packed in my mind; there, her memory is unbreakable. I glance through pictures of my best friend, then lay them aside. My senses are already packed to the brim with our adventures. Experience and intuition guide my fingers. My sense of self will arrive at the next baggage claim, even if I only have one suitcase.
I've learned what to pack. Inside my suitcase's bulging edges is the part of my life that is transportable. I have my fearlessness to question, challenge, and experiment. Tucked in a corner is my determination to unfold and take charge in new communities. Layered between my winter clothes is my constant ability to evaluate what I need. My bag is packed with confidence. I am enough.