Matt Wixon, 33, of Washington, is founder and owner of the moving company Bookstore Movers. (Photograph by Rebecca Drobis)

Everyone just assumed I’d become a college professor. I’ve always loved reading. I loved explaining what I was reading, taking a book and really sharing what I found beautiful about it. But I didn’t want to go to grad school immediately and be subsumed into academia, the politics and stupid, petty struggles.

I started working at a used bookstore and fell in love with the place — it’s a temple, a sanctuary. The name Bookstore Movers is because [I’m] saving up to buy Capitol Hill Books when the owner retires. But working at a bookstore isn’t always as intellectually engaging as you might hope. You cannot be world-weary and having an existential crisis when you are carrying 100 boxes. I’ve never known someone to do a full 10-hour day of moving and be depressed. You have a very clear, tangible sense of what you’ve accomplished. You took one apartment full of stuff and emptied it. And then you filled a new one and helped people start a new chapter in their life.

We are right there in the epicenter of an already stressful situation. You’re there at the beginning of a new job or a breakup of a marriage or when someone is moving in with their partner. You see the kids in a divorce upset because they’ll never see the dog again. There are no right words there — you just try to be a comforting presence. You have to be the one thing going according to plan.

I won’t say that any of us look forward to moving hoarders, but it is always interesting. You don’t move 40 bags of newspapers without coming away with a different way of looking at the world. When we’re in the middle of a long move like that — when the client is literally picking stuff up off the street, like discarded tiles, to add to the move — we keep each other going with our list of craziest items moved. Bar none? A time machine. At first we thought he was kidding because everything else was normal, but he never broke that serious face. We were very, very careful with this huge contraption of tin foil and wood because we knew how much this meant to him.

I never thought I’d be the guy who got up at 4:30 a.m. — I used to read until the sun came up. I recently met up with friends from high school. I could tell they were surprised that the bookworm was a manual laborer who traipses around with a dresser on his back. But there was a certain amount of pride. There were doctors, lawyers, college professors, but I think I was the only small-business owner, the only one not working in someone else’s system, the only one who had created something out of nothing.