Have I mentioned yet that I am a hopeless pack rat? I feel like this needs to be touched on before moving on with my other posts. Part of my pack rat nature probably comes from my mom, who I swear kept every drawing and significant piece of art/schoolwork from my elementary school career (after which I started to learn to hoard things myself). I also liked to collect things when I was a kid. I had a keychain collection, a rock/seashell collection, a sticker collection, and a stuffed animal collection (the largest and most prized of the bunch), just to name a few. Sure, they were cool things to have, but part of my desire to keep these things was because they reminded me of people, trips, events, feelings, etc. In addition to collecting, I’ve also been known to hold on to strange or seemingly insignificant items simply because of the invisible memories they were wrapped in. A boy once gave me a box of chocolate for Valentine’s Day. I ate the chocolate and kept the box for YEARS. I once went to a Backstreet Boys concert. The glowstick my sister bought me at the concert eventually lost its glow, but I still kept it in a drawer in my room for YEARS. I once tied a piece of yarn around my wrist as a bracelet and never took it off until it finally frayed and broke. Instead of throwing out the sad piece of yarn, I kept it and had it for YEARS.
Although I’m a pack rat, I’m at least an ORGANIZED pack rat. A few years ago I went through all of my keepsakes and performed a major purge. All of the things I couldn’t bear to part with were then neatly cataloged chronologically in several giant plastic filing containers with folders labeled by year (I’M NOT OBSESSIVE YOU’RE OBSESSIVE). I even parted with the the chocolate box, glowstick, and raggedy piece of yarn I mentioned before. Don’t get me wrong. I am not cured. I am just more organized now. I still harbor serious pack rat tendencies. Name a roller derby game you have seen me skate in and I can probably dig out the program. That thoughtful Christmas card you sent me five years ago? I have it around here somewhere. And don’t even get me started on my hoarding of potential crafting materials (“I can’t get rid of all these bottle caps—what if I need them for a project later?!”).
Then there are the journals. I began writing in a tiny pink diary complete with lock and key when I was about nine years old (although my journaling may have pre-dated that age since I have found some mysterious and un-dated entries in various notebooks). When I first started writing, partially inspired by Harriet the Spy and Amelia, it was sporadic and often an outlet for really positive or really negative feelings or events. My writing became more steady, although usually in spurts during which I would write regularly for a while and then write nothing for a while, proceeding to cycle between the two. There was even a period of my life where I wrote diligently every day.
Writing every day is what led me to be addicted to the remembering, something that I still feel in my bones to this day. Do you know how cool it is to look at something your wrote a decade or more ago? Do you know how fun it can be to relive one of your favorite days as a kid? Or how touching it can be to see word-for-word your seemingly ancient reaction to heartbreak? Do you know how satisfying it is to get into an argument with someone and be able to pull out a journal, turn to a page, and say “HERE, LOOK, I TOLD YOU SO” (I’ll tell you: it’s very satisfying. Ha!).
But seriously. You get to look back on so many of the experiences that turned you into the person you are now. And you get to remember the tiny details that most people forget when their memories become hazy and leeched of specificity. You get to know so much—simply because you wrote it down. I think that’s pretty cool.
My rainbow of volumes has become my most treasured possession. I always say that if I lost all of my possessions in a horrible accident, my journals would be the one thing I would never get over losing.
I have never really shared my journals. Maybe a line or two here or there, but that’s it. And if I had a dollar for every time someone asked if they could read them (*cough*Dad*cough*), I’d have a good pile of cash. But they were always for me.
In preparation for this project I have dug out the Official Archives of My Life (which includes all of the still-existing items listed above and more). When I look at all the things that have been deemed important enough to keep, most of it is paper in some form: journals (obviously), letters, essays, drawings, ticket stubs, etc. And luck you, I plan on sharing some of those things with you. Yes, even parts of my journals, which is a huge divergence from my usually fierce protectiveness of their contents. (After all, what good would this fun, embarrassing, scary writing project be without a little vulnerability?) There will also be photos stolen from my parents’ albums, projects dug out from under beds, and even some adventures into my Online Record (aka, my LiveJournal—eek!).
Consider this a short preface to the rest of the project. The many items in my stash will serve as tasty supplements to the memories I recount here. And they’ll probably be the funniest parts of the whole thing.