When I pause to think, I can remember the day that I packed up to leave for college. I didn’t take too much with me. I had a couple of boxes of clothes, the sheets, blankets and towels my mother had helped me pick out, a portable typewriter, my trumpet, and a guitar. I had a small desk that I decided to take with me, even though the college had desks in the rooms. I had a brand new dictionary, received as a gift. That was about it. Three of us made the trip to the college in my family’s chevy carryall. Moving into my dorm room took about a half an hour. I had plenty of time to walk around the campus and familiarize myself with the names on the buildings and make sure I knew where the first orientation meeting would be held before I had any first day obligations. I changed rooms in the dormitory three times that first year. I went home for summers every year of my college education. That’s seven different places to live, eight if you could my family home, in four years. At the end of that time I was married.

We kept moving. Four years of graduate schools involved moving all of our things to five different apartments. Two summers we packed up our things and put them in storage while we lived at church camp for three months. The trumpet, two guitars and the typewriter made every move with us.

Then we settled in. We lived in a parsonage in Hettinger, North Dakota for seven years, followed by a U-Haul move to Idaho where we lived in the same house for ten years. We had a moving company haul our possessions to South Dakota, where we’ve lived in the same house for nearly 24 years.

I’m not exactly sure how I got from being able to pack up all of my things in a day to the point where the mere thought of moving is intimidating. I still have the same trumpet, guitars and typewriter, though I admit that the typewriter hasn’t come out of its case except to be shown as a strange machine to children and their friends for the time that we’ve lived in South Dakota. There are, of course, a lot of other things.

Some things are easy to sort. There are books that haven’t been off of the shelf for five years, clothes in the back of the closet that haven’t been worn for as long or more, boxes in closets that contain items we’ll never miss. There are duplicate items in the kitchen, obtained from years of helping others close out their homes and move.

There are also items that once seemed valuable and important to me that don’t seem to hold similar value: a point and shoot digital camera with all of its cords and charging block that I used quite a bit before I had a cell phone with a better camera in it. Similarly there is a digital recorder that I used before my cell phone became the recorder of choice. There is a box of miscellaneous cables and chargers of electronic devices that I’m pretty sure that will never be used again. The list goes on and on.

The developmental psychologist Erik Erikson developed a theory that involves eight developmental stages. Like all theories, it is incomplete and doesn’t fully explain human behavior, but it gives clues to the way our minds work and the tasks that must be accomplished in a lifetime. On Erikson’s developmental chart, I’m coming to the final developmental stage that he calls integrity vs. despair. My developmental task is to look back over my life and pull together all of the accomplishments and experiences and learn to look at my life as a whole. Gaining a sense of integrity about my life is, according to Erikson, essential in order to avoid bitterness, depression, and despair.

I’m just entering into this particular developmental stage, but it is clear to me that I am thinking about my life differently these days. I still love to think of the next challenge and the next bit of productivity and the next opportunity for growth and self-development. But I also find myself thinking a lot about the journey of my life to this point and how to sift and sort through all that I have done to discover the most essential meaning. A couple of friends have suggested that I should write a memoir and I suspect that Erikson would agree that it would be a meaningful task. It is, however, one that I intend to put off for a while. I’ve got some sorting to do first.

I’ve spent quite a bit of my life acquiring things and I need to speed up the process of distribution. It has been quite a few years since I read Erikson seriously, but I’m thinking that he didn’t mention how critical it is to get rid of a few things at this stage of life. We’ve vowed to leave behind fewer things for our children to sort than was the case with our parents. It hasn’t quite gotten to the point of obsession with me, but it does occupy my mind when I have a few free moments. I suppose it will have to rise to near the level of obsession before I begin to make major strides in the process. In the meantime, I’m dabbling at it, doing a little here and a little there, closing a few items to package for the rummage sale, tossing a few items in the garbage, finding new homes for this and that. At the rate I’m going, I won’t get it all done anytime soon.

For now, I’m keeping the trumpet and the guitars. The typewriter is a different matter entirely. I know I have no need for it. I know our children and grandchildren don’t want it. I know that it has no cash value. I know that collectors all have that particular common model. I wish I could find someone who wanted it.

I guess I’ll leave it on the shelf while I sort some other items.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!