I once read about a man who had all his possessions stolen. Every single thing. He had loaded them into a rented van to drive them from Manchester to London, the first leg of the next stage of his life. Somewhere en route he jumped out to grab a sandwich. When he got back the van was gone. He never saw it again.
This resonated with me because I was moving a lot at that point in my life, almost always unwillingly. Each time I would box up my stuff and lug it across town, sweating, swearing and wondering whether I really needed it all. I convinced myself I did. Amidst the emotional turmoil of broken relationships, crushed egos, freelance gigs and uncertain futures this stuff provided a ballast, some tangible evidence about who I was and what mattered to me. It told me that even though I might have reached that particular point in my life without a steady job or life partner, I had at least managed to earn some money and spend it along the way.
What I didn’t know at the time was how deeply I would come to value this unwanted succession of fresh starts. Security and stability matter—particularly when viewed from a grubby, beer bottle-strewn flatshare whose inhabitants barely register the onset of the working week. But once you’re forced to prove to yourself that you can live through change on a regular basis, you learn the most important lesson of all: no one can take your experience away from you. The bumpier the ride, the richer you are.
The guy who had his van stolen eventually came to see it as a blessing. The sudden evaporation of his worldy goods left him feeling unexpectedly light. He had been gifted with a blank slate, a fresh start. There are only a handful of things in life worth mourning the loss of, and once you get that you become invincible. Everything else is opportunity.
Written by Rosie Parkyn
Photography courtesy of Matthew W. Jackson