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?