Tales From the Front: The Carton Complex
Ella lives in a cute little apartment. She’s been there now for three years. And there’s no reason to believe she’ll be moving out soon. No job transfer looming. No windfall on the way for a down payment on a condo.
But despite the fact that Ella’s immediate future seems to be right there in that one-bedroom, the corner of the dining room is piled with boxes. Cartons filled with books, her grandmother’s china, things she doesn’t need right away but figures she will someday.
Ella, 29, suffers from the Carton Complex. She doesn’t come right out and say it, but Ella believes that sooner or later a man will enter her life and take her away from her apartment. They will set up a home together. A real home. He’ll build bookcases for her books. They’ll have dinner parties with her grandmother’s china. Right now, she feels in transit. So she doesn’t unpack boxes or hang pictures.
“It’s not just the cartons,” Ella admits. “In other little ways I put off acknowledging that I’m a single person living on my own and completely responsible for taking care of myself and that this may be the situation for some time to come or maybe forever.
“Here’s an example: I really should put up shelves on the back of the bathroom door to hold my towels. But I keep putting it off. I’m waiting for someone to put up the shelves, help me unpack and put empty boxes in the garage.”
Ella actually does quite well by herself. You would hardly call her helpless. She has a tool box and knows more than just a little about automotive repairs. She’s familiar with the basics of plumbing and has set up her wifi. She has lived on her own for seven years. It’s not that she is waiting for a handyman or someone tall enough to change the light bulbs in the hallway alcove beyond her reach. Rather, she is waiting for what she considers her real life, the most meaningful chapter of it, to get underway.
You’ve seen this type before. The woman who swears her real life will begin when she loses 10 pounds. Then she’ll buy new clothes, get her hair done and go away on a great vacation that will be the start of a whole new existence. Just as soon as she can take off that 10 pounds — and she’ll start tomorrow. Ella is a variation on the theme.
“It’s embarrassing to talk about because it makes me out to be a total jerk, the kind of woman who says, ‘My life is nothing without a man.’ And I’m not that way. I’m a busy and generally a very happy person. But I really have resisted setting up a real home for myself. So something obviously is going on.”
No matter how rational Ella sounds about it, the cartons remain in the dining room. Neatly piled. Taking up space. One of these days, Ella has decided, she is going to dig in and unpack them. She says she’ll make room for the books; she’ll put away the china and put the cardboard boxes out by the garbage. She figures that will be the day life plays a neat little ironic trick and she ends up meeting the man of her dreams.
Are you waiting for your life to start?
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