I consistently purge my belongings. When my bookcase is too full, I’ll sell a handful to Strand, only to bring more than a handful. When my closet gets too crowded, I make a donation or attempt to organize a swap-party with my friends. When a heel is beyond repair, my heart breaks just a little as I toss it and take out the trash before I have the urge to fish it out again. I throw out expired beauty products near-weekly and honestly, if I just get tired of looking at something, it goes.
But there are certain things I never, ever throw away. Like my dream journal – a book I’ve kept for over a decade that chronicles my firsts, my lasts, and any huge life changes. Or the boarding pass that brought me to New York and the sticky-note I wrote to myself on the plane to remind me I was doing the right thing, no matter how afraid I was. Then there’s the first piece of mail that had my NYC address on it (a bill, of course), dozens of cards from friends and families encouraging my dreams, ticket stubs to operas, movies, and Broadway shows. A copy of my first paycheck, my job offer letters, my first freelancing contract, magazines with my byline in them, fan mail, hate mail, and pictures of homes and apartments I cut out. Pictures of what I want and pictures of what I had.
These things aren’t necessary to my survival, I could do without them. I’d have far more room in my closet if I didn’t have a huge chest filled with papers and photographs, heavy magazines and ribbons from things I have to really think about where they came from. But I can’t imagine throwing any of them away. Trust me, I’ve tried.
Like last night, for instance.
Feeling the need to get rid of clutter, I cleaned my room from top to bottom, gathered a bunch of items I was done with and stumbled across my chest of memories. Having not looked through it in a long time, I pulled it out and sat it on my newly washed-and-made bed, and went through everything. And though I haven’t dropped to such a level in a while, I cried my eyes out.
Just looking at pictures from college, from when I interned, from when I first moved, from when I was a child, and an unattractive adolescent. I reread letters I wrote when I was still full of hope, when everything seemed in reach, from when I was unstoppable. I found fortune cookies with dates on the back and names of people I shared a meal with, but now don’t talk to. I cried when I found penny after penny, each carrying a special memory, if only I could remember every time one cent has changed my perspective. I laughed at silly promises I use to hold, journals about breaking up with guys I can’t picture in my head anymore, and I carefully held a mini-stuffed animal my mom gave me when I went away to summer camp for the first time, so I wouldn’t be afraid.
This isn’t Camp Greenville though – this is my new life. This is my home, as Mr. Possibility carefully reminds me from time-to-time when I’m really frustrated with the thought of the future and I whine that I just want to go home. “Baby,” he says. “This is your home now.”
And it is.
That box of memories is special to me but that’s all it is. It’s papers and frozen smiles and silly faces inside years that I’ll never return to, places I’ll never live again, and moments I can’t relive even if I close my eyes and click my heels three times. I have a new life, a new adventure that I can’t run away from, no matter what challenges I face or what obstacles I have to overcome to get to where I’ve always wanted to be. Even if the greatest obstacle to get through is the challenge of facing myself as I am, especially when that person isn’t someone I thought I’d be, and maybe a person who wants different things than she originally planned.
My old home, the old me, the old day-to-day I use to enjoy and experience is locked away in that box in my closet, underneath a Kate Spade bag and surrounded by shoes. I may never forget those people, the smell of the house I grew up in, or the path that led to me to where I am now, but it’s now, in this moment that will ultimately be a fleeting memory, that I have to live. I have to make this place a home, this life my own, and let myself out of the box of the past I’ve been afraid to let go of.
Because memories are wonderful to cherish, but I’d rather continue to make more than to dwell on the ones I’ve already created.
Daily gratitude: I’m thankful for today. That’s all.