Writing inspired by the SWC creative writing prompt: What did you give away when you last moved? Who did you give it to? Did you ever find that you needed it again?  

What did you give away when you last moved?

By Mihaela Tsoneva

I’ve always dreamt of living abroad. My country as a whole has a strange case of low self-esteem, and people put life in other countries on a pedestal. So naturally, I’ve always dreamt of living abroad, in another bigger, better country. My excitement before coming to Austria was unmatched. I counted the days and couldn’t wait to pack my bags and leave my cold apartment with the annoying landlord. 

Soon I stood in the middle of my room with a pile of empty boxes and looked around, trying to decide where to start. No one ever tells you how strange the feeling of wrapping up your entire life in a couple of boxes is. 

So I started with the clothes—every piece of clothing I held in my hands whispered an old story of where it had been, who it had seen, what it had experienced. Next were small objects from the shelves—birthday cards, group photos, souvenirs from distant and exotic places. I took my time with those, remembering the moments and people related to them and crying, laughing, feeling all the nostalgia my body was able to bear.

From the kitchen, I took my old set of cutlery—knives, forks, and spoons with plastic green handles and crooked metal ends. They were one of the first things I bought for my home in my first years of living in a dorm room. Everybody hated them, and it was almost impossible to eat with them unless you wanted a sprained wrist; but I had a strange affection for them.

So there we have it—years of my life packed in bags and boxes. A lot of things were thrown away, deemed unworthy of the new life I was starting. But I was in for an unpleasant surprise. It turned out that our small car and the even smaller new apartment couldn’t fit all my stuff. So I had to quickly decide on a couple of boxes that weren’t going to make it to Austria. After I went through all stages—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—I had a new pile of boxes set aside with the things I had to give up. At least for now, my partner said, we’ll get them next time we come to visit. After eight months now, they’re still sitting in the storage room in Bulgaria.

But little did I know then that giving away clothes and items wasn’t the biggest challenge. After a few months of living abroad, I suddenly realised I had given away so much more. It was big things like family members’ and friends’ birthday parties, big wins like landing a new job, starting a new business. But it was small things as well—the chance to call someone up and get together for coffee in half an hour without planning, the pure pleasure of sitting in comfortable silence with a friend on a park bench on an autumn morning, even doing things I would hate before, like painting the walls at home. At some point, I found myself not so much in the need of the items I had left behind, but in the need of those tiny, seemingly insignificant moments with friends and family. I never realised that by moving, I was slowly giving away the chance to some day be part of their moving-away boxes.

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