My aunt married her husband when she was 16 years old. In her senior yearbook, there is a picture of her 6 months pregnant with my cousin. After 21 years, she and her husband are finally moving out of her In-Law’s. She said she’s leaving everything except her unused wedding gifts—unboxed pots and pans and table settings she’s stored away in dark narrow spaces like all her teenage dreams.
I can’t imagine holding on to anything for that long. Hoping for a glimmer of light one day in the future.
Maybe it’s the Hmong in her. It’s in all of us. Sometimes I wonder why we weigh ourselves down so much. Like bombs, bullets, and escaping a communist government is the only reason to pack light?
One thing I know is that I don’t want to give myself a reason to hold on to 20 years like it is a Polaroid in a photo album in an attic. Life doesn’t wait the way we keep our possessions.
Another aunt asks me if I’ve ever hiked to Eagle’s Peak. She tells me it’s a hike on her bucket list. When I tell her we should go next weekend, she looks away and becomes busy with kitchen work. She doesn’t mention it again—and I don’t press her. I’ve learned that some dreams are like ghosts. And my aunt is haunted in the form of things she will never do and places she will never see.
I don’t believe bucket lists belong 10 feet underground. You can’t fill a Pyramid with it or burn it to the afterlife. But even so, my aunt fills her list like a hoarder.
My uncle’s wife asks me if I still plan to move into my car. When I tell her I am—she asks me, “Why?”
I wanted to tell her ghost stories horrified me, but instead I say, “I want to pay back my loans and get rid of my debt as fast as I can so that I don’t have an excuse to not do what I want to do.”
She says, “But in life you’ll always have debt.”
Another aunt tells me, “Don’t do it. Stay where you’re at.”
“Why not?” I ask.
“Because it’s wrong—you’ve forgotten what your goals are—“
I interject vehemently, “I know exactly what my goals are; how can you even say that? You don’t know what I’m doing to facilitate the life I want to live.”
“That’s not the right way of going about it,” she says carefully after a long silence.
Of all people, I wouldn’t qualify her as a specialist on doing things the “right way”.
All my life, I’ve looked up to these Hmong women as examples of strength and hard work. But I don’t want to live my life the way they tell me I should. I refuse to wait for 20 years to unbox my life, to keep a bucket list with no intention to follow through, to stay exactly where I am even though I’m not happy, or to let my mother say that I just need to find someone to marry in order to gain direction in my life. Whether or not I attain conventional success is beside the point. It’s about living my best life and I want to pack light.