I square myself to the lateral metal file cabinets, each with three safety-interlocking drawers filled with project files. Folders are tabbed in alphabetical order by client name and year—the painstaking work of someone far more meticulous than me. The first drawer dates back to 2002, when overalls, ribbed jersey t-shirts in muted colors, and cigarettes all seemed cool. Shark tooth necklaces and mini pigtails were also popular. We’re all guilty of something unfortunate from that decade.
Each folder is stuffed with numerous print samples from various projects: brochures for kids’ camps, key cards for storage companies, viewbook upon viewbook for colleges, millionaire holiday greeting cards. Banks and housing developments and lumber companies and restaurants are represented, client upon client from the years past.
Thrusting my hands deep into the papery bowels of my company’s history, I steel my resolve. It is all a bit melodramatic. My reticence makes it look like I am approaching a cadaver with a bone saw, about to commit a heinous but necessary step in my education, not moving offices. And that’ s what this is: We’re moving.
You are making space for what comes next.
I run my fingers nimbly across the drawer, reading and extracting files as I go—trash, trash, trash, trash, save this, trash, trash, trash. The collector in me quivers. I soon am rethinking my entire rationale for trashing old files.
“Maybe we should save everything from the last seven years.”
I worry, as if the IRS and tax code have some kind of deep and universal law to bind all belongings, including Black Swan DVDs, “Vote for Huckabee” signs, and a cutout image of an 18-year-old with a fauxhawk taped to Spring Arbor University’s freshmen welcome packet.
Trash, trash, trash.
Colleagues are carrying armfuls of binders, floppy discs, and periodicals—old tools from an old time when old employees advertised in old ways. Apparently we have been haunted with their ghosts for quite some time. I just keep at the file work.
Trash, trash, trash.
With every fresh container I fill, I waddle my way out into the main office, now transformed into piles of worth: “Keep.” “Garbage.” “Recycle.” “Donate.”
Spare vacuum hoses crawl over semi-functional shelving. Monitors fill the bar table like a frozen assembly line. Seventeen Aeron chairs press themselves up against the far wall, trying to converse with one another casually rather than feel the acute discomfort that no boy had asked them to dance.
If I stay in the thick of the chaos for too long, it all will start speaking to me. Instead, I dive into the storage closet, pressing my fingers into my right side, just below my ribs. I long for a bit of pressure to alleviate the building ache.
Anxiety often starts as a stitch beneath my ribs, as though I’ve carelessly grazed the corner of a toxic edge with my typical clumsiness.
Contaminants course through my bloodstream, thanks to the wound, and crawl up my spinal column. They pool in my shoulders, pulling me under in a drugged kind of reactivity. My pulse starts to flutter, and logic gives way.
Sometimes an undone physical space provokes undone space inside—space that has little to do with an office move.
I don’t have control of this.
The panic of it can feel a little overwhelming, as if I should know what is coming, or even could.
Reactive emotion courses through me in rudimentary ways: “I don’t want to move. I didn’t get to choose how this all went.” I look up to the shelves still fully stocked before me: “Who the hell thought this many vases in an office was necessary?!” I toy with the pleasure of slinging the one in my hand down upon the hardwood floor and seeing it shatter.
More noteworthy than this moment, standing vase-laden amidst littered reams of paper, is everything this moment connects me to from my past. Something gritty, yet fragile within me says, “Stuff.”
Stuff all this down to achieve something more functional and mature. There’s a job to do, and it’s best to get it done.
God, can life really be this transient? Not too long ago, I felt like I was holding all the strings, armed with a strong sense of where the scene went next. Now I feel more like the puppet, and I would do just about anything to rid myself of the jerky sensation of divine strings.
“The thing about anxiety is that it demands a path. Not a wise path, or a safe path, or a path that honors your heart and its happiness…anxiety just says, ‘give me direction!’ and commences down the nearest road, even if stalked by wolves.” – Sara Van Tongeren
A hush sweeps over me in the storage closet—that still, small inside voice. It says, “Wait.”
“Wait, dear one. Take courage and wait.”
And so I exhale the truth of this moment: “I’m here. It’s messy, and I’m anxious. And that’s okay. I’m still in this: still doing the work, still believing in what comes next, and still moving.”
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 27 year old seminary student, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.