The suitcase that lives in my closet is well-loved and worn. One of the zippers is broken, the handle is fraying, and the wheel is a little bent. It’s seen many airport conveyer belts, countries, cities, and hostels. It’s been prayed over, squashed, beat up, and had funny blue liquid leaked all over it.
Despite all of it, it still is dependable.
It’s been to Russia, China, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, and El Salvador. Dragged across railroad tracks in Sibiu, Romania. Put in the backs of pickup trucks to Guatemala City. Lugged from one terminal of Shanghai Pudong to the other. Filled to the brim in Beijing after 50 pounds of winter clothes arrived with two beloved professors from my college who were there as guest speakers for an education conference. It’s carried more clothes, hopes and dreams than I could possibly think of.
It’s been my constant in a world of transition.
But… every time it comes out, my heart hurts just a little bit more. My suitcase means hellos and goodbyes. It signals a beginning and an end of something bright and beautiful. It carries hopes, dreams, shattered expectations, and passion. It means endless days of packing and unpacking and repacking (after weighing it and realizing it’s 5 pounds over the weight limit). So many emotions with one simple suitcase.
I have a love-hate relationship with my suitcase. The restless wanderer in me gets excited. New adventures, new cultures, new food, and new passport stamps. How many more countries can I visit and explore before I no longer live on this side of the globe? However, the part of me that longs for a life of stability groans inwardly as the packing begins. Change, transition, culture shock, and new everything. 50 pounds… and not an ounce over for fear of paying $100 extra (thanks nameless airline).
What can and can’t I bring on the plane? What’ll get my bag searched or an extra glance in the security line? (Note: Don’t try and carry-on brownie or cake mix. The powder sets off every alarm and warrants a search… every time. Oh, and so will those candles that you desperately wanted to bring – apparently, they look like something rather explosive and suspicious). The stability freak in me hates my suitcase and everything it means.
My suitcase is that best friend I can depend on when everything else gets a little hairy. It’ll always be in my closet, waiting for my next great adventure. It’ll always be there when I need to get away, for a week, a month, or even a couple of years. These two years in China have taught me that I was born for this life, a life lived out of a suitcase as much as I love-hate it. While I never know how long I’ll be in one place (it might be two years or it might be ten), I always know that my suitcase will be there reminding me of where I’ve been and where I’m going and where I ultimately call my home.
My suitcase reminds me that I am a sojourner on this earth. I was not created for this temporal earth in this temporal body. My bags are packed, and I’m trekking through this life, headed for an Eternity spent with my Savior.
My suitcase is loved and worn. My suitcase is a constant and a representation of a life in transition. No matter how much I love or hate it, it’ll always be there, beckoning me outward, onward, and upward, feeding the wanderlust within.
When you consider your suitcase, what memories, thoughts, or emotions well up? As an expat (or a repat), what does your suitcase symbolize?