By Tom Ehrich
My wish for you in the new year: travel light.
I can attest to the benefits. When we moved to New York City in 2007, we left behind two-thirds of our possessions. As we prepare to move to a rural home in Upstate, we will dispose of another 50%.
I cannot think of a former possession that I wish was still at hand. Sure, it would be aesthetically pleasing to have a wall of books in our new home. But at the hassle of packing 3,000 books and just for decoration? I don't think so.
Traveling light is more than dispensing with stuff. It also means letting go of some memories, some expectations, some wounds. Disappointments are created by comparisons to what we expected.
Yes, we need to learn from our history, but we also need to let it go. We need fresh ideas, fresh experiences, fresh dreams. Now that I have reached the stage of life when possible memories outnumber possible new experiences, I cast my lot with the new.
Traveling light means letting go of people, too. Not literally consigning them to outer darkness, of course, but letting go of the need to have a broad and consistent circle of friendships accumulated over the years. I am grateful that a few friends from years past are still in my life. But my hope for tomorrow's community lies in new people I will meet and new activities I will undertake. I hope they have room for me.
For a writer, traveling light means leaving behind what I know how to do and finding the new voice, the new style, the new insight. I think the same must be true for the teacher, the lawyer, the parent. We need fresh engagement with the material of life. We need to resist those who would freeze us in a persona or output or style that they find appealing.
Traveling light means allowing other people to change. They, too, are waking up fresh each morning -- or they could be fresh if the world around them were more devoted to freedom than to control. The ways we imprison other people in yesterday's "clothing" are inhuman.
If you doubt the value of traveling light, look at the terrible divisions over religion that are imperiling civilization itself. Look at how bigotry is destroying our common life. Look at battles over change that turn out to be little more than defense of inherited privilege and ignorance.