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Boxes and Round Pegs in a Square World





I’m packing up.


My lease is ending and it’s time to move again.


The apartment is filled with boxes all over the place.


One reads, Kitchen, another, Electronics. The others: Closet and Bedroom.


Some stuff is pretty straightforward to box. I know exactly which box to put the stuff in. Some stuff is really easy to pack simply because I am standing in the kitchen so obviously that stuff will go into the Kitchen box.


Straightforward.


But there's other stuff that isn't so easy to box.


Candles?


Is that kitchen? Or living room?

And board games?

These vases?


And


We go on putting the things into and out of boxes. Scratching out the label that describes the contents inside and writing in a new one. Some of the boxes read Random or Misc. because, well, how the do you describe what is inside the box in a cohesive, accurate way? It’s like the nonsensical assortment of goods that I leave Tj Maxx with: glittery journal, charcoal body scrub, organic Italian olive oil. Meanwhile, I went in for socks.


What about the boxes we put other people in?

And ourselves

How we define their identity

And our own

How we categorize

How we keep moving

To new apartments

With old boxes

And some stay longer

And some get weeded.


We toss dusty packages of nonsense we’ve been storing. We realize it's time to let them go. Get a little lighter. Shake off the extra weight. Shed some snake skin.


And through the moving itself we refine.


Even in moving, there are lessons to learn.


I’ve seen quite a few episodes of House Hunters (thanks, mom) and have noticed a pretty consistent pattern about decision making.


In the show, people go to look at places to rent or purchase in various cities and countries. They introduce the house seekers, show their wish lists and needs. They follow them through three different housing options. Then, they show which one the people choose.


Seeing this process repeated over and over in so many episodes has revealed a very telling phenomenon of human behavior.


Episode after episode my logical pragmatism leads me to an educated guess that they will select the option that best meets most of their needs, according to the wish list they described.


Here is the logic for my guess: which one best checks the most boxes?


Straightforward.


Except for a bit of wiggle room for extenuating circumstances and spontaneity, like a surprise swimming pool or major roof problem, I always choose the one that most logically meets their needs.


and NEEDless to say, I’m always wrong.


For one reason or another, the people always go with the option                      out of left field.


They choose the one that actually checked no boxes at all, but had a really great unanticipated view and 2 parking spots so given the circumstances, for them, in that time and space, it was the one that checked the boxes in the right way.


No logic.


At all.


Just moving by feel.


Like a round peg in a square hole, that somehow, mysteriously, is the one that fits.


So you go with it.



The thing is


Decisions are complicated.


There are an exponential amount of factors at play in any one decision. So many variables impact/are impacted by our choices.


So take a big decision, like a housing scenario. It’s not going to be straightforward to choose in the same way that it is straightforward to put books in the Books box.


We try to narrow it down, to list must-haves and identify the most important variables. We imagine an ideal. We seek out some needle-in-a-haystack fantasy of the perfect place (or job, or car, or partner, or city, or or or)


And. Alas. As soon as we look the stuff up, reality sets in.


Our searches yield no results.


Me: *Googles Dream Apartments*

Also Me: "Wait, wut? What do you mean there is no apartment available exactly where I want, way below budget with brand new appliances, a swimming pool, gym, covered parking spot, view of the water, complimentary dry-cleaning, and first-month free promo? This is an outrage!"

Lol. Not an outrage. It's just reality. A little bit of Google keeping my imagination in check, I suppose.


Then, upon accepting that fantasy apartment does not actually exist, fear sets in. And anxiety. And worry. And incessant thoughts. And word vomit.


Suddenly, where we already are feels comfortable. We’re not even sure if we want to move anymore! Suddenly, the non-negotiables start showing themselves. And the ripple effects that those have. Our subtle attachments to things, often that we didn't even realize. And the boxes we put those things in. And the boxes that make up our identities. The infamous ego always giving its 2 cents.


And each individual decision is really a constellation. Tied to a million other factors. A million other stars. How you can’t really separate one choice from another. The cause from the effect. The things that are really important from the things we are ultimately willing to compromise on. The millions of permutations of stipulations that we could not possibly consider all of.


At some point we just have to go by gut. It's time to decide, and we never quite feel we've given it enough thought, enough consideration. But we've got to decide. So we do.


No logic. No pragmatics. Just cold hard intuition.


We just do the thing. And that's it.


It’s an overarching pattern of how we make choices. Or at least try to. Or at least pretend like we have any say in the matter.


We ponder and ponder and let it linger and then the moment comes and we've got to act.


We've got to move again.


And the thing is: Life doesn’t care about logic.


Life doesn’t care about checking boxes.


And yet, we always, somehow, move along, even though we almost never get the best case scenario: the thing with all the features we want, the thing that easily checks all the boxes. Sometimes, it comes down to getting as close as possible, and being flexible with the #ddelivery that arrives to your door.


Finding the balance of give and take.

Finding the places for compromise and the places for digging in your heels.

Living your truth.

Not answering to anyone else or hiding behind logic.

Making the best of what is and that's it.


There is a fusion between dreams and reality that forces your hand to bet about which factors are most important. Or which combinations. Which dusty packages of nonsense you could do without and leave behind as you Move. Which you’re not even willing to entertain the idea of letting go of. Which pegs fit in which holes.


We start to learn exactly how much flexibility each factor has is dependent on the particular calibration of the constellation of the other endless quantity of factors that are at play.

We start to see the interrelated web of each item. We figure out that some factors are intrinsically interwoven and simply cannot be separated.


And then don’t forget, R ≄ r, and correlated variables are not necessarily causal.


We constantly layer and redefine and make moves. And we put ourselves in different boxes and test them out.

How do they fit into my identity?

What other pieces of me are in this box, and what does being in this box imply?

And what about the boxes that this one is exclusive of. Sometimes being in one box means you can't also be in another. And yet, you need both. You need the seeming opposition, like two sides of a coin. You need the opposing force to give meaning to each side, to justify its existence. Black needs white. Light needs dark. Boxes for what you are but also boxes for what you are not. Boxes that fit into each other, and boxes that are over-sized, oddly shape, and don't get along with the other boxes. Boxes that are brown and say Kitchen, and boxes that are wrapped in silver and gold and pink foil with huge bows and ribbons.




So you go about your round peg-square hole-ing.


And sometimes it works.


And sometimes not.


And sometimes you jam it in.

And realize right quick that you

Should not have

And you get a little stuck

And getting your peg out requires pulling through teeth

Like a Chinese Finger Trap


And sometimes

If you jimmy-rig it

In just the right way

Like a huge rolled up canvas in the freight elevator

You get it to fit.


And so.


What boxes do you fit into?


And which do you not even pretend like you ever would?


Which are you subconsciously drawn to or repelled from?


Which are you willing to put yourself in for a little while and experiment with?


Despite our attempts to categorize and put things into boxes for easy identification

Some things wont play that silly, only-human game with us.

They can't be categorized, identified.

They don't ‘stay inside the lines,’ as the late Mac Miller would say.


And so I look up at these boxes, the different options spread out all over the place, and feel

:

I don't fit.


And truthfully


I don’t want to fit


Into a box

of identities

words

titles

labels


But rather

To be elusive

Indefinable

Ephemeral  

Essence

Fairy dust

The lingering scent of rose

Delightful

Lovely

Pure

Esoteric

Mysterious

Love


But most of all:

Hard to fit into a box.


And more than that:


Okay with the

Not fitting into a box.

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