Monday, April 1, 2013

Grave Dressing

As some of you may have heard, I've accepted a part-time year-long position teaching English abroad. Um, there's lots to say about that. Forthcoming, perhaps. But because of the duration of this, thing, and because I'll be headed (hopefully) to law school when I return state-side, I'm coming to the realization that maybe I should start taking inventory of my worldly possessions. Having been alive for almost 22 years, I've actually accumulated a lot stuff. Clothes, trinkets, books, papers, gadgets. Et cetera. And I'd really like to have just one cardboard box to carry through life with me. 


What am I to do with the mementos from outings with friends and inside jokes and teasing conversations that remind me of happy and heavy times?

What am I to do with the folders and nametags from various conferences and seminars that enriched me mind and soul, teaching me lessons I want to remember? 

What am I to do with the pages and pages of notes, diagrams, and projects that have been turned in and graded over the course of my undergraduate studies?

What am I to do with the numerous volumes detailing the mundane events and angsty crises dating from the present all the way back to when I was eight and first discovered what a joy a diary was? 

Tell me, what am I to do with it all? Right now I have a bookshelf and a Tupperware bin filled with what I've deemed my memories: debate flows, and musical programs, and wedding place cards, and ticket stubs. My journals and notebooks keep stacking up, and bookshelf space is prime real estate. 

I thought, if only I could some how digitize it all, have all these memories at my fingertips within some computational hierarchy on my hard drive or the cloud. (Readily summoned at a time of homesickness or nostalgia, useful too for cross-cultural English teaching, as in, "What's a Slip'n'Slide? Here, let me show you!") Then I could always have my memories with me, wherever I ended up, without having to lug around binders and folders and portfolios. But what is there, really? Picasa, Pinterest, Evernote, Springpad, Instagram, Tumblr . . . none quite right. 

When I was eleven I was a horrific packrat. I saved everything. Candy wrappers and stickers from doctor's visits. I like to think I've come a long way since then. The cycle broken when my mom made me hold up my volcano model created for KONOS, snapped a picture, and put it in the trash. "When in doubt throw it out," she said, and I'm always in doubt of these worldly goods that weigh on my soul. I'm a minimalist now. 

Oh, but the memories! It's one thing to pass on my favorite shirt to my sister, or downsize my jewelry collection, or throw out old makeup, but it is painful to part with sentimental value. The day I threw out all of my NCFCA ballots (and I mean all, from my very first tournament competing in OI with Robert Lawson's "Rabbit Hill" in 2003 to that final round of DUO during the 2010 national tournament, it was a stack three feet high, and I tossed them all) I felt disturbed. I still regret not saving just a few. Lilly is devoted to making meaning. And I get that, because similarly, I am devoted to memory.

I blame Lois Lowry's The Giver. I can't help it. I'm obsessed with remembering. I'm a slave to nostalgia. So what's a minimalist to do? 


Art said...

The Giver lost his memories when he gave them away.

It sort of disturbs me that there was only ever one version of each of those memories, and once he transmitted them, they were lost.

I'm not answering your question, but I do understand some of this struggle. The keepsakes ARE meaningful, but it seems frivolous to keep so much.

Michael Mullaney said...

Humm . . . I feel obsessed with remembering, too. There's a ton of stuff I can't bear to throw out, especially notebooks and notes from people.

Caitriona aka Catherine said...

Responding to this post is going to make me cry but I am going to do it anyway, because I think it may at the very least give you a perspective of an older person who just helped her husband bury his dear dad.
Dan and I went through about 80% of our pictures and for the record the only ones digitalized are the ones I scanned in from those photos. I did not look at any of the pictures online or on my computer though it did cross my mind, "if I have time I will look at those too". Our brother in law made a video for Dad's wake and set it to music. I would say that 95% of the photos used were from actual photographs. During my hunt I revisited my children's (now ALL adults) childhood. I laughed and cried A LOT!
There is something to be said for holding something in your hand.
Then I came across my journal that contained my conversion to Christ, my spiritual birth which happened to fall on April 1, 1987 (that's 26 years ago) And I started to read it, then I brought it to Dan and asked if he wanted me to read it to him. I read, we laughed and cried and praised the LORD.

We purposed to remember Dan's Dad, to honor him even in death, to show great love and with that comes great respect. The remembering has been wonderful, the sadness great and we are grieving the loss and resting and remembering, knowing that Dad, Big Bill would want us to go on and live well.

Before my comment turns into a blog post of its own, I will stop here.


Nicole said...

Remembering is important. As one whose memory is already failing, I would encourage you to keep the sentimental stuff. Even if you don't bring it with you abroad (which I did not know about - how awesome!!), you'll regret throwing it out.

That said, few things in life have brought me as much joy as throwing away the notes from my hated college courses. The feeling of freedom was immediate.

Liz said...

Throwing things out does not mean that you're not attached to them. Things I've thrown out I've remembered more than things I haven't thrown out.

There's a happy balance to obtain, I'm sure, but this is why we have closets, right?

Hayley Hutchins said...

It seems to me that one reason I have so many keepsakes and mementos is because I have had so many opportunities and rich experiences. You just don't have that many artifacts if you don't get many chances to break routine. Conclusion: the size of my memories box either means I'm overly sentimental or excessively privileged.

But I love love love what Mrs. Mullaney says! That stuff is so good! Every time I dig up something old, from a time past, a memory, it makes me so HAPPY to remember, it's such a precious thing, and so I guess the act of remembering incentivizes the preservation of memories for future remembering. Which is curious.

But I'm with you Nicole, my memory's already failing me, so I feel that much more of an imperative to hustle on keeping this stuff!