In an attempt to consolidate some of the shit I’ve compiled over the last 25 years, I recently went through a couple old boxes —
It turned into an exercise in nostalgia. It always does. I don’t have a lot of “stuff,” but of what I do have it’s 98% sentimental junk, things I don’t use and that don’t impact my life. It makes dangerously close to zero sense why I hold onto these items.
For example, I’ve held onto a paper I wrote in 7th grade for the last 13 years. My class was assigned to write a story with a moral. So naturally, I named the two main characters Trinkit and Trunkit and titled it “The Mice With The Bucket,” written October 15, 2002. Below are the final two paragraphs, which includes the rising action, climax, falling action and resolution within a matter of 5 or 6 terse sentences:
So the day came when [Trinkit and Trunkit] started working. They were excited because they never had a job. They worked in pairs so things went quicker. The mice had to carry eight buckets of water to the department every day, but they had to go a half bucket at a time so it wouldn’t be so heavy.
However, these two brave mice thought they could carry a full one. They dropped it and went in the gutter and died. They died like their father. They were very greedy.
Moral: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Holy shit! Why was I such a dark 12 year-old?
This was an awful story, and the 71% grade Ms. Hernandez gave it is reasonably proportionate to the amount of effort I put into it. I mean, come on. Look at that ending. Could I have possibly mailed it in any more than I did? This is a question that could plague mankind for centuries.
Yet, I keep these things. I like my Trinkit and Trunkit story even if, in the end, all it became was a weak excuse to use an awesome moral. That was how my 7th grade self saw the world: I tried to figure out a way to fit a square peg through the round hole. My conclusion was always fixed; it was a matter of gathering the most convenient evidence to support my already decided claims.
But that isn’t how it works. And most of my compendium of items are proof of a recurring failed experiment. From 7th grade to freshman year to senior year to Virginia Tech and back. From essays to short stories to flight stubs. From photos with spiked hair to my ROTC name badge to my pamphlet for the Washington D.C. trip a took when I was 17.
None of these things hold any weight to anybody but me, and even I choose to see them maybe once every couple years, if that. They are nothing except reminders of a life that now seems like so long ago.
There’s this white box I’ve always kept. It’s short and wide, and was originally sent by my ex to my dorm at Virginia Tech. It held in it an anniversary letter, along with a collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s finest.
Now it holds all the postcards and letters she sent me, 68 different pieces of mail, as well as a photo from a trip we took to Disneyland when we were 18 with her sister and sister’s boyfriend.
Why do I go on like this? Why didn’t I just burn the whole lot a long time ago?
This is something of a theme. I am obsessed with everything that hurts me. For every fork in the road I’ve chose a side. I have accepted that not everything that happens in the universe is a personal attack against me. I’ve found peace in the fact that all my days of sorrow didn’t go for nothing.
So here is the wager I’ve been processing in my head: Do I keep the damn stuff, keep playing the same old song, or do I gamble on the unknown of what it would be like to get rid of it all? To this point the math has come out on the side of the former, but how many more times will I have to ask myself this question?
These are the things we don’t talk about.