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JAN
04

Farewell to my First Hobby

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If you read Schooled, you'll recall I learned how to tie lanyards in the 3rd grade. I loved it so much that I kept tying them until I left home, at which time I had not only accumulated a sizable collection of supplies (string, hooks, beads, not to mention all of the finished lanyards themselves), but I had also realized that I couldn't possibly bring said supplies with me to college. Nor did I really want to at that point. I had outgrown my beloved hobby, only I couldn't bring myself to throw the supplies away.

I'd forgotten about them until I was at my parents' house over Christmas going through various bins of childhood belongings in an effort to consolidate. With my recent NYC-inspired gutting of possessions (see Less > More post), it seemed like the right time. Indeed, most everything in the bins got thrown away. Things like my She-ra dolls, my troll collection (remember the two minutes when those fluorescent-haired little things were trendy?), oodles of school papers, a box of dried up corsages (from what events, I have no idea, since the only dance I ever attended was my senior prom), framed photos of Olympic gymnasts from back when I was sure that the same level of glory and athletic prowess could be mine as well.

But nothing gave me as much pause as those spools of lanyard string. As Billy Collins says in his own poem, The Lanyard, nothing "could send one into the past more suddenly." I remember so well sitting through that after school program and, after having no interest in any of the other activities (think chess), I remember loving the lanyard tying right away. I recognize now it was probably because it didn't involve interacting with any of the other kids...nor was it something at which they could handily beat me. Indeed, I could not even count the hours I spent in my room over the next decade tying those things. It honestly makes me a little sad to think about--all the time NOT hanging out with friends or becoming an Olympic gymnast--but it made me happy.

I might have opted to keep the string instead of throw it away when I unpacked it from a bin last week, but apparently plastic lanyard string doesn't have a 20-year shelf life. Let's just say it was not in tie-able condition. And that is how any future child of mine was saved from inheriting a tub full of plastic lanyard string. Not that this will stop me, should any such child ever exist, from teaching her how to tie them. She may not be as introverted as I am, but I hope there is at least one season of her childhood where the calming repetition of strand over strand engenders a sense of independence and creation. Besides, we can't all be Olympic gymnasts, now can we?

SEP
26

Less > More

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So, I'm reading a book right now called The Joy of Less. I'd lump it into a "tell me something I don't know" kind of book (full of principles such as "when one comes in, one goes out," and "narrow it down"...these are not earth-shattering concepts) if not for the fact that absolutely nobody is actually living this way. We get it; we can read a book like this and know we are the guilty ones for having so much crap we don't need--don't even use--yet what we cannot seem to do is get rid of it. The crap.

I'm using crap as a general term here, but the teensy bit of heartburn I feel as I sell, toss, or give away upwards of 90% of what I own is that my stuff is, in fact, not crap. My stuff is nice. So shouldn't I keep it? Don't I deserve to keep it? Haven't I worked hard to get to a point where my house is full of these nice things? While I'm sure there will be a moment after the move where I look around and say, "What happened to all my stuff?" and perhaps even shed a tear or two over being so stripped of belongings, my mantra through all of this is, "Something is only useful if it's being used." And most of my stuff is not. 

And let's also not forget that our stuff doesn't define us. Which can seem counter-intuitive. Because I can point to almost everything in my house and tell you a story about how it came to be mine. And there's a lot of life woven into these stories. Some of these stories are so significant to me that parting with the item will simply not be an option at this point, and that's OK. My point is simply that we must never get confused about what actually constitutes a life, and we must always remember that experiences trump possessions any day. And my hunch is that owning less actually facilitates more in terms of experiences. We have more room in our lives, in every sense of the word. That is what I'm looking forward to most.

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