Monday, November 1, 2010

Just not a material girl in a material world...

When I was younger, I was terrified of the dark. Two or three nights a week I would sleep with the lights on, the door open, and a big old blanket wrapped around my body. I’d wait for my parents to go to sleep and I’d slowly get up from my bed and creep out of my room to make sure nothing was in the hallway. Some nights I’d go downstairs and turn on the television for a bit until I felt really safe, and some nights I just fell asleep. If I had a bad dream, and the lights were off, I would cover my face, remain motionless, and silently listen to the things that went bump in the night.

When I did convince myself that it was okay to turn off the light during the night, I’d imagine shadows on the wall were people sneaking into my house to kidnap me or my family or steal all of my belongings. For me a shadow on a white wall was like a cloud in the sky—it had the ability to deceive me into thinking it was something else. The shadows would take the forms of creatures in the night haunting me until my eyes got too tired to recognize their shapes anymore—or until 4:00am.

4:00am is what I call the safe zone. It’s the time when I have convinced myself that bad guys don’t prowl the streets and the time that the world—in my time zone—is in a safety bubble.

So when I woke up at 5am on my final morning in New York City, I was ready to walk out to my car to embark on my new journey. I headed down the third floor walk up of an apartment I had slept at in the Bronx, opened the door laughing as I said goodbye to a friend and slowly realized that things from my car were sitting on the ground. It was past 4am and I suddenly felt as if the safe bubble had popped and covered me in a terribly gewy mess. My car had been broken into via a back smashed passenger window.

I stood there trying to take in that most of my belongings, except my clothes, were stolen, and nearly fell over in disbelief.

I walked back into the apartment, unready and unwilling to face the fact that my car had just been ransacked for everything that had some significant money value to it. As my friend woke my best friend up to come down to me, all I could think was that I was stuck in a bad dream. I attempted to use the power of Inception (Gosh LEO you made it seem like it was so easy to do in the movie) to stop the terrible nightmare and make the shadows of broken glass and unlocked doors disappear. I stood motionless, wishing I had a blanket to cover my face so I could take in all the bumps in the night around me. Only I wasn’t stuck in my 10 foot by 10 foot room imagining that terrible things were happening in the darkness—terrible things DID happen in the darkness.

Now a little less groggy, I was slowly putting together that my external hard drive, my flip camera, my camera memory cards, and my iPod had been stolen, on top of a number of other things.

As I wrote down the list of items I was missing, I stared at them thinking: “This could be a hell of a lot worse.” All I could say to myself and to my friends were “They are just replaceable accessories Libs—just disposable items, just things that I really wanted—but never really NEEDED. After forty-five minutes to an hour of putting myself back together and forcing through strong reluctant feelings of guilt, I motivated myself to get back into my car and drive home—the final trip I was supposed to make from New York City to Pennsylvania for the next eight months.

I kept repeating to myself “They are just accessories Libs…just accessories.” And while it’s hard for me to imagine the fact that I will never get my videos, pictures, or songs back—there’s something even more valuable to me that this person took…something so precious that annoys me more than someone taking the last cookie from the jar…and that’s time.

Time to prepare for Italy, time to relax with my family, time to cuddle with my cat, time to work on various projects that I have in the works, and time to just get the things done that I absolutely need to get done. Time—something that I could not physically hold in my hands…something more valuable than any of the things in my car…something that isn’t buyable—that isn’t replaceable. And then I started remembering other things that were important to me that weren't in that car--like my memories, and my passions, and my hopes, and my love for the city of New York.

My epiphany came sometime around the moment the sunrise was sitting perfectly in my rear view mirror, almost like a cleverly plotted detail in a film. It was in that moment that I realized that the items we can hold are seldom the items that truly matter the most in the end. If it fits in the palms of our hands—then it can probably never truly fit in our hearts.

Often times we give in easily to the material things around us: the iPods, the Nooks, the makeup, the ugz, the smart phones, the cameras, the stiletto heels, the perfect Halloween costume, and the many other individual things that we always think we need.

But maybe it takes someone stealing your “valuables” to truly see what is of value in your life…to really understand how material you may have become, and how immaterial you wish you could be. You may have taken my hard-drive Mr. Bronx Robber, but you didn’t steal my heart—in fact, I think you may have just made it a little bigger.


  1. So sorry to hear you had to go through this! It's a terrible and violating feeling. I'm not saying it's easy, but like you said you all those things are replaceable and you still have your health and good friends and a bright future even though you just hit a minor speedbump!

  2. Dude. I should have something more profound, but . . .Dude.

  3. Beautiful. And agreed, profound. As usual - inspiring as hell Libs! I'm so sorry that your material goods got stolen but I am glad that they left with a whisper of inspiration and deep truths.

  4. Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry this happened to you. I remember feeling terribly violated when someone went into my bag and stole my camera once (an ex boyfriend's friend, out of pure spite), not because the camera itself was gone but because captured moments of wonderful times were gone too. You're absolutely right though, and what you said reminds me of a favourite quote of mine, "For the things that are seen are temporal, but things that are unseen are eternal."

    Stay safe in that big city of yours!

  5. Colleen--It just makes the speedbumps more worth it.

    Dude--ya it sucked.

    RJ--You are going to do such great things with whatever you choose.

    Emily--i love that quote...I am going to keep it close to me--thank you : )