Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Throwing Out the Trash

Maybe you just can't know if you don't write.

It was my idea to bring the professional organizer in to help clean up the office. It's Aaron's home base since his company is headquartered in Wisconsin. I knew neither he nor I wanted to work up there anymore. There was just so much stuff on the desk.

Before the organizer came, I knew I needed to "purge"--in the parlance of the professional organizer. I went through boxes of papers. I had already spent last summer throwing pages and pages of dissertation drafts, old student work that needed to be shredded, and more. But, each time I dive into one of those boxes, I am filled with memories.

Since I'm not an organized filer, I sat with her and my husband going through stuff yesterday feeling her insistence--which I paid her for--to throw things away. Especially papers. I've thought for over 24 hours about this. Why did this bother me so much?

I don't take a lot of pictures, and I have tons of writing in a variety of notebooks, each of those notebooks filled not just with journaling but with notes and to do lists. I'm not throwing those away. I'm sure to an outsider these just seem like junky mead notebooks and composition notebooks of different sizes and colors. When I open them, I see a page from my life. Freewriting that I did during class with high school students I taught. Snippets of poems. Notes to myself. When I see old assignments, even handouts from classes, I see handwriting from professors that truly impacted my life. If I throw that piece of paper away, I'm not sure I'll have that memory anymore. The visual of that signature. That note makes me recall a time that I have forgotten.

So, I won't throw it away.

It just felt hard to explain how much those written words matter. Will Josie look at these some day with me? One day maybe she will and then I will throw them away. Those words to me are more important than pictures.

It took me five years to write an article published in 2010 on an idea that began in 2003. As I looked through boxes yesterday, I found writing that related to a book that I am trying to write. So, it's hard for me to let go of my written words when so often I refer to those snippets of paper that look like trash and clutter. I can throw away magazines, old tax returns, and in fact, I could probably throw away pictures more easily than some things that I have written--even just scratched notes. It's really all I have of who I was.

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