“The things you own end up owning you.” –Chuck Palahniuk
I have three boxes full of stuff I will never throw away. These boxes hold years of memories, some great, some sad and some bittersweet. They contain birthday cards, old school schedules, report cards, my graduation gown and cap, notebooks full of my writing, newspaper clippings, notes from my friends, old agendas, and other stuff useless to others but precious to me.
I left these boxes back in Europe, in storage at my uncle’s house. They’re still there today but I had no space to bring them with me when I moved to New York. So until I go back to visit, they’ll stay boxed up. But over here, I have a new box of memories in my room. Little pieces of my four years here and it’s going to grow bigger over the years.
My dad recently took a trip back to the home country and he had a chance to sort through some of the stuff in storage. When he came back he told me he had thrown out his old military uniform and medals and badges. I was shocked. He was in the military for almost 20 years. How can you just throw away your medals and uniform? If nothing, they’re sentimental but I guess I understand, after all he obviously has no use for them now. Still for a moment there it still came as a surprise.
This made me think of all the stuff I’m hoarding. When will I throw them out? I’ve sorted through them before, and I’ve often thrown away things that have lost their significance over the years but what about the stuff I will never ever throw out? The things I’ll bring with me to every new city and new home in my lifetime? They’ll probably find themselves in a box somewhere in 40 years. Then I’ll die…and then what? Except the occasional piece of jewelry, I don’t own anything of my parents and grandparents. We’re not a family with heirlooms.
I like to thing one day I can show all my stuff to my kids and tell them the story behind each memento. But is that practical? Will they care? Will I still care in 30 years? Right now it feels hard to throw away these things. It’s like I’m erasing a memory and that’s one of my biggest fears. Forgetting. Losing little memories of my life. Getting Alzheimer’s. I’m so desperate to document my life that throwing away these mementos feels like throwing away a little piece of who I used to be. I still want to hold on to what used to be important to be in high school. I have a mason jar filled with old concert tickets and wristbands because I’m happy when I’m at concerts and I want a tangible reminder of that. This is also why I journal. I want to remember the little details of my life at 14, 18 and 22. It’s pretty incredible to read old journal entries and relive the happy days and the stressful ones. It’s like a window into my own life told by the person who knows it best – me.
This is all an attempt to establish my presence on this tiny Earth and huge universe. I don’t want to be nothing when I leave it. Will anyone read this very blog post in 2156? Is there a way my great-grandchildren can find this blog? Who knows what the Internet will even be by that time.
I have dozens of projects, blogs and journals scattered around in my life. I bet it’s now sounding like an unhealthy obsession and truth is it can feel like that sometimes. It’s tiring to update and record and write and take photos when I’m not even sure it will be worth it in the end. I’m realizing that it feels like I’m too busy documenting my life to actually enjoy living it in the moment. That’s also true at times. My argument is that feelings and moments are fleeting. Writing it down, taking a picture – these things help to preserve it so I can enjoy it over and over again. And if you do it well enough, I promise you the feeling is still in there. It’s like when you wish you could bottle up a specific scent. One that takes you back and stirs up that nostalgic feeling. I’m a sucker for nostalgia. I want to relive the good times. And all this documenting we can do? It’s the closest thing we have to a rewind button in life.
Do you collect and save mementos from past years? Is it hard to part with them? What do you do about it?