An exposed nerve, part four: baggage check

Last time in this series found me completely repulsed by the presence of creepy crawlies here in my new hometown of Austin, Texas. However, since then a couple of things have developed as regards this matter.

One is that quite a few people have commented publicly and privately to me about their own experiences with insect issues specifically in new areas that they’d moved to. There’s been more engagement with The Long Shot audience on this than just about any other content i’ve ever created. Kind of a mixed bag really, since i’m more or less just rambling on about myself rather than any sort of organized work or journalism efforts.

The most impactful story came from an old high school friend of mine who, like several others, expressed to me that they think it took a lot of guts to make a big move like this on my own. Those sentiments have been nice ego boosts, for sure. He also related his own bug story, which culminated in cockroaches that “literally flooded out of the woodwork,” and resulted in completely filling multiple zipper storage bags with their collected dead bodies.

Others have noted that a preponderance of bugs is just the way it is in the South, with my cousin who lives in Tennessee laughingly noting that i got off light – his house has an ongoing issue with brown recluse spiders!

In light of stories like those, my problems were much more than manageable. In the intervening time, i’ve seen less and less of these unwanted guests. Maybe once or twice a day i’ll spot one who didn’t get my memo and needs a one-time reminder of my policy: i see you, you die.


But, i already went over my bug problem at length. The topic i want to go over today is tangentially related though, and that’s about baggage – both physical and intangible.

In a way, it is related to the bugs in that, as part of my efforts to alleviate the problem, i aimed to minimize the amount of my stuff that they could get into. Arriving here as i did with no furniture to my name, i had only a number of duffle bags of various sizes to hold my meager possessions. After unpacking the essentials, there remained some stuff still bagged up, placed on the floor of my walk-in closet – a risky proposition that i felt would undoubtedly become a dark home for the vile creatures.

What was left in these bags? During a particularly thorough cleaning session i decided to curate them in hopes of consolidating the contents.

  • Wireless headphones for online gaming
  • PSP i borrowed from a friend and forgot to return
  • Posters i got from Gen Con that are still rolled up awaiting frames
  • Poster by John G, also still rolled up
  • My Funko Pop figures, waiting for a place to be displayed
  • Important Paperwork (title to my car, W-2s, etc.
  • AP Stylebook and The Newspaper Designers Handbook
  • Blank checks (that i’ve had for years – who needs to write checks anymore?)
  • A very small “collection” of comic books
  • A copy of Lacuna Part 1 that i hope to someday actually play
  • 2TB external hard drive
  • Several notebooks
  • Mementos of my ex-girlfriend

Primarily, i had one large duffle bag, a holdover from Venice Beach where friends and i retreated to after evacuating Big Bear due to wildfires way back in 2003. Inside of it like a Russian nesting doll was a small bag, which held a small bag and so on. Lots of bags, lots of opportunities for enterprising insects to colonize.

Going through all of the items, it struck me that i was carrying around a lot of baggage within this baggage in the form of the last bulleted item on that list. Cards, letter, little notes, a notebook detailing the scoring for hundreds of Vs. System card games, photos, tokens from places we’d been – even a book of unredeemed “coupons” that i’d vowed to use in full throughout my lifetime (things like getting to choose which movie to see, a full hour massage, etc.).

Full disclosure: my ex and i haven’t been together since 2013. Yeah, i’m that sentimental. i had never been in a relationship that long – 9 years – and letting go of that has been a very long process for me that still continues to this day. It does not matter how many people advise me to forget it and move on, how many times i hear this, it’s one of those things you have to do on your own, in your own time and way.

In the early post-split days, i would often sift through these items and wonder how this had come to be that we were no longer together. Sometimes i would cry, sometimes even without looking through this stuff. How could someone say all of these wonderful things and then leave it behind them? Or aim to live happy, long lives together and abandon that? To say i often felt unloved, betrayed, devastated are understatements. It was sharply painful for a long, long time, retreating to a duller pain as i slowly grew beyond the situation, eventually arriving to an ache that strikes every so often.

It is what it is, and one of the things i’ve made a focused effort towards since arriving here in Austin is altering my perspective. One of my worst habits is a tendency to alternately dwell too much in the past, or worry too much about the future. These days i try very much to focus primarily on the present because, of course, the past cannot be changed and one can only plan so much for what lies ahead. Also, ignoring the present to look ahead too far seems to work against you anyway, because you might miss important things that have an effect on it like opportunities.

In light of all of that, i separated the things i wanted to keep that had a real use in the present from those that i was carrying because they either had value in the past or potential for the future.

In one pile was everything on the list save the last item. In a second pile was the bags – possibly future cockroach homes – and the mementos of the love that i’d lost. For a time, i hemmed and hawed over the two piles. Then i realized two things. The first is that, i’d experienced everything represented by those mementos. They weren’t artifacts from another lifetime, they were a part of my life. The second is that they had no real power other than as a physical representation of a period in my life. The meaning they held is already a part of who i am, and shouldering the tangible weight of these things as i travel through life would not change the past, the future or who i am in the present.

So, with what i always imagined would be a heavy heart, but which turned out to be a lightened spirit, i placed all of those items into the smallest bag, which i put into another bag and so on until the largest held nothing items which no longer served any purpose. That is not to say i no longer put any emotional value on what was inside, only that their value was already ingrained into what makes me, me.

And into the dumpster it went.

That was about two weeks ago. Since then, and i can’t say there is any empirical evidence of correlation, but there has been a significantly noticeable reduction in the appearance of skittering bugs in my apartment, and there’s been a shift in my relationship with my ex. We have continued to remain friends all these years, a friendship that i place a lot of value in, and since unburdening myself of the physical and emotional baggage i feel like i’ve moved forward and grown a bit independently simply as myself.


Like the other posts in this series, i’m curious to learn about what similar experiences readers have had when it comes to past relationships. i’m aware that my progress post-split has been extremely slow going, but at the end of the day i am happy to arrive at any mental or emotional states in my own way.

Lest i have painted a darker picture than i’ve intended for regular readers, my time here in Austin so far has gotten better and brighter each day. The feeling of being an exposed nerve has greatly diminished as i’ve settled into some routines, explored the city, started work and delved fully into my natural geekiness. The other topics i plan to cover to finish out this series will shed some light on that.

In parting, i’ll leave you with the well-known portion of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam A.H.H. that rings as true for me as it has for countless others since it was set into words in 1849 and before that as simply a matter of human nature.

I hold it true, whate’er befall;

I feel it when I sorrow most;

‘Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.


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