"But What If I Write a Memoir?"

I may have mentioned it before, but I am a hopeless, incurable packrat. This started when I was a kid and I hate to admit it but I have probably only grown into a bigger hoarder as an adult. At this point, I could fully wallpaper an entire room in my house (at least one room) with all my cards, notes, to-do lists (why?) and more. And unlike some type of collection that might actually be worth money some day (or, you know, Beanie Babies), or something useful like coffee mugs or decorative plates or something, I have, instead, every note Jonathan wrote me in college (sentimental but hardly useful except to point out his apparent hatred for punctuation back then), birthday cards and graduation cards dating back nearly a decade, sermon notes, programs, and truly random items like choir tour schedules and memory verse cards from Systematic Theology (shudder!). 

So why, WHY am I holding onto this stuff? Some of it I couldn't bear to part with, like Jonathan's notes or Christmas cards from Miles and Meghan when they were tiny and could barely write their names (tears!) or engagement cards from my best friends. But MOST of it, if I'm being honest, isn't that remarkable. So while part of my reason is my sappy sentimentality, I'm also plenty irrational about the whole thing... which would explain why I was sitting surrounded by papers this morning trying to make a throw-away pile and literally thinking, "...but what if I write a memoir?" 

Number one, I doubt I'll ever write a memoir. (What would the title be? Tales of a Twenty-Five-Year-Old Unemployed Former Teacher with a Soda Addiction?) Number two, if I were to write a memoir, I seriously doubt anyone would be interested in knowing my homework to-do list from November 2009 (although just looking at all the studying and writing and (academic) reading I did back then makes me exhausted) or my New Year's Resolutions from 2010 (none of which were kept.) If I got hit by a bus tomorrow (morbid), I would pity the poor person responsible for sifting through my mounds of stuff.

A smattering of my endless collection...

Every note from two years of college...

I guess these are enough to make up for the rest of my lifetime... neither of us are big note-writers anymore. =)

The sad thing is that what I have now is only a fraction of what I wish (yes, wish) I still had... my middle/high school and even some college stuff has been lost at my parents' house (although, granted, it could be somewhere in the labyrinth of boxes that is their garage.) I guess losing some of that stuff is just a sign of God's mercy since there's no doubt anything I wrote from the ages of 12-17 would be truly horrifying. (Reading my early cards and notes to Jonathan makes me want to go back in time and slap myself repeatedly.) But pictures, especially, from high school are something I'd love to unearth someday. 

Anyway, my college/beyond paraphernalia is more than enough to fill a few shoe boxes and other random storage spaces. Here's what I've determined the common factors to be in what I've held onto (trust me, the parameters are not narrow): 

-It represents a place I've been. Rocks from Myrtle Beach on our first ensemble weekend? Newsies playbill? (You can't have it for a million dollars!) Program from the (unbeknownst to us) CHILD performance of Cinderella that Sara and I saw (and died laughing throughout) last year? My MetroCard from New York? Playbill from the performance of A Christmas Carol, a field trip I planned for 40+ kids? (Maybe I don't want to remember that... I get cold chills thinking about it.) I want these things, even if only to know in the back of my mind, that I possess them and can look at them when I want to (which, granted, is rare, but still.)

-It says something nice to/about me. Narcissistic? Probably, but I can get a pick-me-up really fast from reading a sweet note from a friend, even if it was written six years ago. Someone, somewhere, said something like "You can live on a sincere compliment for a month," and I agree. In my case, apparently, it lasts much longer. That probably says pathetic things about my self-esteem but eh. It's true. You know, there's a reason I have probably 25 notes from my first year of teaching that are all basically identical: "MRS. MCNEESE! YOU ARE THE BEST TEACHER EVER! I LOVE YOU!" For one thing, I read and re-read them in my second year when I felt like a big fat failure. Now they just make me feel good. And I have letters, notes, essays, and more from all three years in the classroom that I will never get rid of for the same reason I won't get rid of notes from my own child (I mean, when they actually mean something. Scribbles will mostly be trashed because #meanmom.) 

-It brings back fond memories. That's kind of "duh" that applies to any of these, but I like using my cards and notes as a kind of physical TimeHop that reminds me of what was going on this many years ago at this time. For example, I went through birthday cards today from my 20th and 21st birthdays. Since my birthday is coming up (26! Noooooooo) I enjoyed looking back to age 20 (when leaving my teens seemed like a huge, huge thing), or 21 (when the Next Big Thing in my life was getting married.) Those weren't too terribly long ago but feel like a lifetime and I most certainly look back on that Ashley as a child. Or finding a "welcome back from Christmas break" note from the Fergusons, who lived in our dorm at the time and now happen to be our pastor's family. Fun little things, you know? 

-It's just something I would never, ever get rid of. Notes from Jonathan. My wedding poem from my dad. (Just seeing it can bring me to tears, let alone reading it.) My last birthday card from Mamaw and Papaw. My Newsies playbill. (Worth mentioning twice? Yep!) It's funny to read our notes to each other from that spring of 2010 and remember that literally our wedding, to us, was the be-all-end-all Ultimate Event that was the most important thing in the world (you know, besides acing our finals.) There wasn't a whole lot of thinking beyond July 23rd that year, at least for me. Or seeing my choir tour schedule from that same spring and remembering the terrifying night that Brook, Jennifer, and I spent huddled in one room with a single, bare light bulb (think prison), all squished in one bed because the bunk beds didn't have sheets. (All while a scary lady named Margaret played questionable computer games in the next room. Cue Twilight Zone music.) 

Could I have these memories without tangible reminders? Sure, but as I get older I feel my memory getting duller all the time (thank you, three years of teaching.) So having a stack of "stuff," even if it feels silly or superfluous, helps me conjure up good times, bad times, hard times, busy times, different times, and be thankful for all of them and for the time I'm having now (which, considering I spend at least part of my time at the pool every day, I'd say is a pretty good time.) 

Are you a packrat? Any advice for practical storage (besides "throw it away")? No room for naysayers here. Literally, no room. It's all taken up by my collection of 2,347 church bulletins.


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