probably legitimately how I looked the first time I was packing for my move to Belgium, bangs and all
When you move, you always think, “Why do I have so much shit? Why are there student papers from four years ago in boxes in my closet, and am I really obligated to shred them?” And when you’re a graduate student, you’re going to move (or you’re not, really, it’s your choice … but you’re probably going to move because you probably had to move for grad school). Luckily, there’s a solution to the “I have too much shit” problem: move across the Atlantic and pack as many clothes as possible while crying into your suitcase and listening to a Top 40 playlist because you want to believe life is as easy as a mediocre pop song (Rob Gordon and I disagree on this point). I technically moved twice after I finished my degree, so I can say that I am more than an amateur at moving from the US to Belgium. Here are the facts:
- On international flights, you are allowed one piece of checked baggage that must not exceed 50 lbs/23 kg or you will have to pay extra, which, if you’re cheap or already paying for your move out of pocket … just no.
- You have a carry-on that must fit into the overhead compartment and not be a pain to carry with the checked bag because you have to make sure you can hoist all of that luggage up into the train and back down off the train without impeding the flow of traffic. (Why are there so many stairs on trains?)
- You can also have a small personal item. Whoopee. Joepie. Hoera.
- Oh, and the clothes you’re wearing.
Here is the luggage I carry with me whenever I have a transatlantic flight, and also what I moved with (both times!) to Ghent. Also, please admire the coordinated oxblood pieces. I got that travel swag.
Fifty pounds is not a lot of luggage, especially when you factor in the weight of the suitcase itself, your shoes, toiletries, make-up, jewelry, purses, sentimental items, books, etc. This is what I weighed in on the first time:
What did I take, aside from the boring shit?
- 2 pairs of boots (one that I wore to the airport)
- 1 pair of Hunter boots (DO YOU KNOW HOW HEAVY THESE BOOTS ARE? I lugged them around in my carry on and had I not (1) known about wet Belgian winters and (2) been able to stuff all my underwear in them, I would have left them in Columbus)
- 3 lightweight flats
- 2 pairs of sneakers
- 1 pair of wedges that I don’t actually wear (great choice)
- 1 pair of sandals
- 3 heavy button downs (one that I wore to the airport)
- 3 cardigans, 3 sweaters
- 7 shirts that might be casual but I still wear them to the office with a cardigan
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 2 pairs of sweatpants
- 5 dresses of varying weights
- 4 pairs of leggings, 3 pairs of jeggings
- 2 heavy pants (one pair worn to the airport)
- 2 skirts
- 1 pair of running pants
- 1 hoodie
- 1 profesh blazer
- 1 light jacket
- 1 heavy jacket (worn to the airport)
This is actually an exceptional amount of clothes given the luggage I had, but I’m an exceptional packer. It’s also not a lot at all—I miss a lot of clothes that I keep trying to sneak back into my luggage whenever I visit them at my mom’s house, including:
- An incredibly pink skirt that made me feel feminine again after years of not desiring to be desired (pictured, with bonus stray puppy in Kosovo).
- Bright blue jeggings that I bought because they were hella on sale, which I wore with big black boots to the airport when visiting my friend, who said that she’d have never expected me to wear that kind of flash, ever.
- A goldenrod cropped, short-sleeved cardigan bulky knit sweater (so: completely impractical) that I would wear over a black shirt with bright green pants that I bought on sale [it’s my thing] so I could feel like a sunflower.
- An old, hideous, bulky button down knit sweater in forest green with the most 90s of shape patterns knit on the front panels. I stole it from my mom when she was cleaning out her closet a decade too late (she was throwing out knit sweatervests, for real). I told her I loved how ugly it was. She said, “I know.”
- How big of a role does sentimentality play in our clothes-editing decisions?
- Did I make the right decision in moving and losing about 70% of the clothes I had?
- Am I also not bothered by the limited selection of my clothes because (a) I have a tiny wardrobe in a tiny bedroom, and (b) I can still get by with the bare minimum of professionalism in my everyday work clothes because I don’t teach here?
- If’n I someday return to the States, will I ever be able to find everything I left scattered across the Midwest? Will you help me?
- Why does everything at Zara always look like it’s a good deal?
The real problem of moving with limited space is that I’m not sure that what I took with me actually accurately encapsulates my style; it’s more heavy on black, for example, and a lot of it was hastily chosen in both cases. If I didn’t think about making the decision I could just shove it in or not shove it in. I was also really emotional, okay, so I gravitated towards the comfortable clothes rather than clothes that I actually find myself needing (like: who knew I’d go to clubs and how unprepared my wardrobe is for that). Taneem asked me if I thought my style would change in Europe, and I think it has by virtue of not really finding a cohesive thread in the threads I brought along—now I seek out things that I really want, really like, and really care about keeping. I think I’ve finally learned how to Shop Like an Adult (But Still Shop at Forever 21).
I still find it hard to fully invest myself here—my contract is finite. At some point, I’ll probably have to move. How do you invest yourself in people and things (clothes, furniture, etc.) when you know you’re probably going to have to leave? This is the problem with being a scholar these days (among other ones, obviously): constant moving, little time to invest.
I’m going to end this with a more positive note—or at least, a picture of GUS THE DOG because one can never include too many puppies in a single post. I am in the back of a stretch limo about to leave for the airport. My dog is rocking a skull and crossbones collar over his harlequin coat. He’s also got swag.