Untethering Ties to the Past

I know things have been a little ranty around here and I apologize for that. I think my problem is that things are actually really nice right now, so my inherent anxiety issues are asserting themselves in future situations that aren’t even relevent yet.

Oh, and my daughter has been quite a handful lately and I’m constantly wondering how I’ll manage her and a baby, when I can’t seem to manage her all by herself. (I know, I know, I’ve written this a bazillion times. Want to know how many times I’ve thought it?)

But today I’ll be talking about something else entirely. No rants on Wednesday!

One of the things I have on my to-do list this summer is to clean up the back bedroom/office/elliptical space so that it will be ready for a few things we need to do with it soon. First it will be the place we store our new memory foam mattress for a few days while it airs out (I got seduced by a Groupon deal, it was probably a huge mistake). Then it will probably house our old bed until I can get it down to my parents’ house. And finally it will be the temporary home for the twin bed we plan to get early so that Mi.Vida can sleep on it when the baby is born and he needs to get some real rest. (Of couse eventually it will be where the baby sleeps, but I can’t really wrap my head about that possibility at the moment. 😉

Right now the room is a depository for all sorts of shit we just don’t want to deal with. Two things that have been in there basically since we moved in (ahem, almost a year ago) were Costco bags of crap from the office space at our old apartment. Today I tackled both bags and found that one was filled with keepsakes from various trips in my life along with photographs that spanned ten or fifteen years. Within 30 minutes I had recycled 99% of the contents of the bag, including piles and piles of photographs from my college years, and before.

Now I have always considered myself a sentimental horder. I used to develop rolls and rolls of photographs, always getting doubles because I believed you could never have too many copies of, well, anything. When I went on vacation I saved receipts and pamphlets and brochures and napkins and coasters and anything else with the name of where we were or that offered proof what we had done. I used to paste these keepsakes, along with the hundreds of photos into elaborately decorated scrapbooks, creating detailed records of my most memorable experiences.

{My mom swears I have five boxes of shit like this in her garage. I think it will be clear what I plan to do with that stuff by the end of this post, or the next paragraph.}

Today I threw out two sizable bags full of the remnants of two different trips, one was a car trip around the country I took with a roommate after I graduated from college and the other was from a trip around Europe I took with my sister when she graduated from high school.

I have kept these bags of memorabilia, plus the boxes of random photos for years, a decade actually. Every time I moved or cleaned out my stuff, I decided they had to stay; even during our last crazy move when I was determined to get rid of all non-essentials. And yet today I was relieved to throw then into the recycle bin. I have absolutely no regrets even knowing that I’d never have those specific links to those specific memories, ever again.

And I have to wonder why now? Why can I throw these things away so nonchalantly when in the past I grasped to them almost desperately? Why do I no longer feel the need to preserve these windows into my college years?

I guess the truth is that most of the time I wouldn’t mind shuttering those windows permanently.

I don’t know if this is just part of growing up and becoming an adult, but I no longer feel the need to relive the more carefree years of my youth. My high school and college years were so entrenched in major depressive episodes that I’d rather forget most of it. And while the pictures I threw away mostly highlight the good moments that I do want to remember, looking at them I can’t help be relive the difficult times as well; it’s like the darkness of my depression lingers in the background, casting a shadow across the spotlight of smiling faces I’m supposed to see.

The truth is, those years were like every year, a complicated mix of good and bad, of joys and triumphs I want to remember and tears and failures I want to forget. I have a few albums with the photos I thought to file away at the time–I can look back and shake my head at the horrible short hair cuts I sported and marvel at the insane Halloween costumes I tried to pull off. I have records of what that time was like, but I don’t need to keep every single picture from those years. All the extras that were languishing in that bag needed to go. They were more a weight pulling down my present than a tether to some idealized past.

I guess what it comes down to is I’m not that wedded to the past anymore. I really like my life and I’m pretty overwhelmed just trying to keep up with my day to day existence. I don’t have a lot of reasons to look back into the past; there are no answers there for the problems I now face. I’ve learned what I’ve learned. Those experiences absolutely shaped who I am today, but they don’t require any more of my time than they’ve already been allotted. I lived that life and now I’m living this life. And while I’ll always cherish my scrapbooks and photo albums, the rest of it is best left to fall away. I need the space–physically, mentally and emotionally–to dwell in the present, to nurture my family, the one I was dreaming about when all those pictures were taken, when all I wanted was to live the life I have now.

What is your modus operandi when it comes to photos and memorabilia? Has it changed over the years or stayed the same?

4 responses

  1. I’m like you I collected everything from every trips…Flight tickets, maps, restaurants cards, etc…I even moved all of it from France to the US!! and everything stayed in the box untouched…If I come accross some of those keepsakes I usually throw them out now but at the time I could not…and I still have tones at my parent’s house…This is definitly for me a family “issue”…my mom kept everything from our childhood, when she came to the US to meet her grandson she brought my first 2 books and i love having them now…I guess I just need to be more selective of what I want to keep. I’m doing pretty good with the kids stuff and only keep things that have strong memories attached to them.

  2. I am terrible at having kept everything and now I’m going to stop keeping the thing and keep digital versions and attempt to make digital scrapbooks. For my mom at least I can see that her desire to keep everything is very tied to her memory loss. If she has the things, she remembers whole episodes that go with most of them. When she doesn’t have the things, big chunks of memory are inaccessible to her. That’s why I think I want to keep some space-free reminders for myself, in case I too lose my memory relatively young (she’s in her 60s) and so I can use the things as a way to tell the stories of my life to the girls. I know the story behind the sitar and the random drum my mom has kept because the thing itself inspired the stories, so I’m hopeful I can tell the stories of my life using just pictures of things. The junk has got to go. We have 50 moving boxes waiting to be unpacked and several more that we aren’t unpacking for some reason and it’s too much.

  3. I think it’s simply abprocess of aging/growing up/whatever you want to call it. I used to collect tickets etc from my first few overseas trips, but gradually I’ve reallised that what I really treasure are the memories. I’m into digital photobooks – so things can be scanned and included without the clutter. In the last ten years I’ve become quite detached from things, and more in love with people and ideas and experiences and memories.

  4. I think what you are doing- getting rid of this stuff- sounds very healthy. Remember the good parts of the past fondly, but move on to your amazing future with your sweet family!

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