For some mysterious reason, my apartment complex has decided that they no longer want me living here. They gave me 90 days notice, so I’m methodically going through each section of my apartment to clear out the stuff I don’t need anymore.
I’ve lived here for three years. It’s the first place that has been my own space, my own home– ever. I nested. In the past 15 years, as I moved from one coast to the other and then back to Texas, home has been the place where I keep my books. When I finally got a great job and found a great apartment, I bought three large, expensive bookshelves from West Elm, collected all my books in boxes from my mom’s house, and finally gave them their deserved space in my home.
When that cold little note was left on my door, arrogantly telling me that this was my notice to vacate the apartment by March 20, I thought about carrying all those books down two flights of stairs, to sit in storage for months while I found a new full-time job and a new apartment… So many books! so heavy and dusty and … suffocating.
Last night, I combed through my bookshelves. As I examined each book, I asked myself, “Will I ever read this again?” (Or, “Will I ever read this?” because let’s be honest, 10% of everyone’s books haven’t been read. Yet.)
It was surprisingly easy to let go of Spinoza and Leibniz. I don’t remember anything from studying those texts in college, although I have notes in the margins to prove that I did read them. Having those books displayed on my shelf makes me look educated. I’m very proud of my Great Books education, but keeping those books when I have no personal connection to them is a lie. And maybe Half Price Books will give $0.50 for them!
As for Plato and Hegel and Tolstoy– if I was living in a cardboard box and needed to make a fire to cook food I fished out of a dumpster, well I’d starve before giving up those books.
Then there’s Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I remember being baffled by that book. Maybe if I read it again, I’ll connect with it. I’d like to be the kind of person who ‘gets’ Virginia Woolf. That’s what my bookshelf is about really. It’s about showing off the parts of myself I’m proud of– the part of me that so naively fell in love with Plato at age 19. The part of me that is still naive enough to believe I will eventually finish Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust– and actually understand it.
So who am I? Turns out I’m not a philosopher. I’m a romantic. I hope some current college student will be delighted to find my old esoteric texts on the cheap, and maybe they’ll mock my margin-notes. I’m going to be carrying boxes of literature around. The fluffy stuff. The stories. At this point in my life, I can’t bear to let those books go.