Some people measure their self-worth in terms of what they own. But for commentator Jacqueline Guzman, getting rid of excess baggage and going with the flow is liberating.
BY JACQUELINE GUZMAN
Some people measure their self-worth in terms of how much stuff they own. But as commentator Jacqueline Guzman explains, getting rid of excess baggage and just going with the flow can be liberating.
Everything I own fits neatly into a pair of suitcases. That’s because in the past 5 years, I’ve lived in 5 different apartments, in 3 cities. Friends and family call me a “vagabond,” because wherever I land, I’m home.
It wasn’t always like that. I had a pretty routine life growing up in northern California. I lived in my parent’s house and had the same friends all through school. I used to cling onto everything I owned — from old clothes to notes that we’d pass during class. My room was cluttered with stuff. It was like everything represented some memory I just couldn’t part with.
But growing up in Napa was suffocating sometimes; everyone knew each other. And as I got older, I discovered that career opportunities were slim. A lot of friends were marrying and having kids young, too. That was fine for them, but I wanted a fresh start — to see the world, live in the city.
My first move was to Berkeley for college. Yeah, it was only an hour away, but it felt like another continent. I stayed in a couple of tiny, dumpy apartments and could only bring a few things. So I had to really pick and choose what was important and get rid of the rest. It was painful tossing those old keepsakes.
Living there was an adventure — I remember passing the infamous tree sitters on my way to class. They were hippies who camped out in the oak tree branches by the stadium for over a year, protesting the trees’ removal. They had so little and didn’t care — and that was enlightening!
During my senior year, a professor suggested that I move to Spain for a while to teach. It was a chance at another new beginning. So I rummaged through my stuff again and headed to Madrid with two bags packed to the brim. I knew nobody, had no home and didn’t speak the Castillian dialect very well. But eventually, I found my niche in Alcalá de Henares — a city just outside the capital.
The economy was rough, but the locals seemed to have a great attitude: “Don’t worry, there’s always mañana!” They taught me to just go with the flow. I didn’t have a lot of material things, but the simple things overjoyed me — like meeting with friends for tapas or traveling on weekends. Before I knew it, one year turned into three.
I could have really settled there and been perfectly content. But I knew it was time to start a new journey. I moved to New York to start grad school last summer. When I packed this time, I thought of those hippies and my Spanish friends and brought only what I needed.
When school’s done, who knows where I’ll end up? Those bags are in the closet, just waiting to be loaded again. But if there’s anything I’ve learned as a vagabond, It’s that memories last — even if you can’t physically stuff them in a suitcase. You just have to live in the moment.
Jacqueline Guzman’s goal is to fit all her possessions into only one bag.