How not owning things can make you fearless. The first time losing everything
Changing your perspective, what is essential in life can reduce your fear of losing things, and give you the strength to take the risks that might change your life for the better. A personal story about how I learned that not owning things can enrich your quality of life from my time in New York City.
It was 1999. I was 22, and I lost everything I owned. It wasn’t much, to begin with — I was living as a student in New York City and had come to the US with two suitcases. Nonetheless, being European, we are sentimental. We treasure the past and things like unique edition books, printed pictures, or in my case, operatic scores and CDs that weigh a ton. So, I insisted on bringing these possessions of mine to the US to build my new life.
My shared apartment in New York was in Inwood above Harlem at the very end of Manhattan — a so-called ‘up and coming’ area at the time. Thinking back, it was a dark shady mess where English was a second language at best, and being super white like me, especially in the winter, making you a small minority. It took ages to get there on the notorious smelly subway, and in hindsight, the fact that I paid money to be there is still tough to explain to myself. But it was in Manhattan, it was cheap, and I never got killed — which I guess is the best thing I can say about it.
The apartment was at the end of a dark corridor — 15 square meters in Manhattan for 500 USD per month. No thrills, no furniture, and just a mattress on the floor. And I shared the apartment with two Korean students who left no impression at all, but they were friendly, I guess.
The constant noise from the highway outside was only muffled by sounds of the 10-year-old air conditioner in the window, which also made sure no ray of sunlight would ever enter the space. The walls were painted pure white with the classic dark brown wood flow. That was it. My scores, CD´s, and four suitcases, which I had moved through a total of eleven sublets over one year scattered all over Manhattan, now sat in the middle of the apartment. Every few weeks, I would do a…