Giving in to the unknown: How I packed my whole life into boxes | 9Lives
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It’s been eight months since I moved to Stellenbosch, although I still feel like the new girl on the block. One of the first things that people ask me when we meet (after they chuckle at my accent and finish giving me shit about my GP number plate) is;

”How did you do it? How did you leave everything and move to a new city?” 

At first I would just reply with a laidback, “It was easy, I just packed my bags and got in the car.” 

I wanted to sound strong and hardcore, but it wasn’t like that at all. The decision was tough, not me. I had to quit my job, say goodbye to my friends and pack up everything I own. I started thinking about what it would mean. Another new city. Packing my life up in a suitcase and venturing off into the unknown.

So if you are reading this and you want to move on to something better, something greater. Here is how I packed up my entire life:

Box #1: My heart

The most important thing that I had to pack up was my heart. After a massive heartbreak I had to pick up the pieces and pack it into a box. It was after this heartbreak that I decided I wanted to move and get a new job. I talked to no one about it, instead I just started job hunting. I remember the day that I got a new job as if it was yesterday. After my interview, I got in my car and for a few minutes I just sat there. My heart pounded and I only had one thing on my mind; I’m moving.

I drove to my best friend’s house, told him to open a bottle of wine and then all the emotions came flooding out as he poured the wine in my glass. He was excited for me, but I could see in his eyes what I was thinking: I’m leaving.

There are so many emotions that come with deciding to move. I was excited and then scared, and all of a sudden I felt sad and empty. But I realize now that all of that emotions are important and you have to pack up all all of them. First tip for packing them up is to embrace those feelings.

Be excited because a new venture awaits, but feel sad because you are leaving so much behind. I couldn’t leave my heart with my best friend, the person that celebrated that moment with me, because new people are waiting on my heart and soul. You have to take your heart with you when you move, you can’t leave it with the people that stay behind.

Another important thing to remember when packing this very important box is that when you move to a new place, you can’t just give half of yourself. You have to aggressively give every bit of your heart to the new place, otherwise you won’t feel like yourself or be able to make a home.

I know the importance of this box now, because what you quickly realize when you are in a new city is that the people you wanted to leave your heart to will most probably carry on with their lives without you; that’s just how life is. And new people will wait for your heart and soul in anticipation. And remember this: your home is where your heart is and that can’t be 1 500km away in Pretoria, it has to be here. Now. 

Box #2: My family and friends

I had a month to get all my shit together and drive the 1 500km from Pretoria to Stellenbosch. I packed my house up, went for a few drinks at some of my favourite places and then the dreaded farewell came. My mom cried, my sister had one too many glasses of wine and I can’t really remember anything from that day. That day reminds me of the song from Death Cab for Cutie:

“When you moved away, all of your friends got drunk and one by one begged you to stay.”

And this is exactly how the farewell evolved. 

I celebrated friendships and relationships that have made me who I am today. We promised to see each other again and we reminiscenced about the good old days. And some of them tried their very best to keep me exactly where I was.  

Saying goodbye is tough. But what I’ve learned from the whole experience is who my true friends are. You should keep these words in mind when packing this box. Out of sight out of mind. Life goes on, you can’t expect them to stand still and put their lives on hold, because you didn’t. There is just a handful of people from that farewell party that still pick up their phones to call me or make an effort to visit me in Stellenbosch.

You have to choose wisely, who will you pack up and take with you to the unknown and who will you leave behind? You can’t pack up everyone, because you need to make space for new friends.

Another tip for this box is that you will appreciate the new friends you make more, so leave space for them in your life. You can’t spiral back to your past. what was the point of moving on to better things when your past is in your present? 

Box #3: My entire life

It’s hard to start all over again. Normality is so peaceful and easy. I took that for granted until I stepped out of my comfort zone. I had a stable set of friends, drinking at the same bar on a Friday night, talking about the same stuff we’ve talked about every other previous Friday.

In a routine with a good job and time for myself was the life I had. In a new place you can feel stretched out and spread thin. When unpacking your entire life all over again, it is important to keep in mind that you have to make time to talk to new people, reciting the same story to everyone you meet and you have to realize that if you don’t do this you WILL be lonely. These new people already have a normal; you don’t and if you don’t jump at the opportunity to make a new comfort zone, then no one will. 

When packing up your entire life, it is important to only pack up the good and leave the bad. You can’t pack up all the bad stuff in your life and drag it with you, just to unpack it all over again. Pack up all the good stuff that you as a human being can offer to new people and take it with you. The one thing that I’ve learned from this experience is that you CAN choose who you want to be in a new place. 

When packing up your entire life, the most important thing is to be forward-facing. You are not moving on, you are moving forward. And what do you need to move forward? Only pack that aspects of your life that you need into the boxes you are planning to bring with. Also enjoy the experience and moments of packing up your entire life. 

It sounds like a dream come true to move to a new city, but it is not. It has been the most challenging eight months of my life. I’m still unpacking my life, but that just means that there is more space for new boxes in my life. As the saying goes: Life begins where your comfort zone ends. I never fully understood that statement, until now. There ares only a few boxes that still need to be unpacked. But now I’m replacing the contents of my three boxes with new experiences, new people and new moments.


The VaaIie girl with a laugh better than the joke itself. If you’ve lost me in the crowd, look for the red hat. Or the shoulder pads. Or the floral-patterned blazer. I’ve got a winner of a party trick, just give me a shot of tequila and a raw egg, and if you’re not sure how to start the conversation, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.

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