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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
JAN
03

The Things You Keep

You're looking at the activity that perhaps took the largest percentage of my childhood: tying lanyards. Or, lanyard "lacing," as I so alliteratively called it on the small slips of paper with my name and phone number that I printed en masse to hand out to my friends. I also printed order forms, with blank spaces for things like the customer's name and the agreed upon price, as well as the selected colors and styles of pattern. So much about it appealed to me, in that it was something creative, something I could make with my hands, and something I could ultimately sell. A business, if you will. Complete with beads and hooks and a whole host of colored string options, it was all housed in a red, compartment-filled tin box.

I wouldn't necessarily have been able to recall how seriously I took my craft had it not been for the chance I had over Christmas to go through all the boxes of stuff I saved from my childhood. The boxes have been sitting in my parents' garage for decades, things from elementary school all the way up to through college. These are things like school papers, yearbooks, clothes, stuffed animals, collectible frogs from the years when I had a thing for collectible frogs, college textbooks, random vintage mugs picked up at thrift stores, etc. My main objective was to purge, to go through the boxes and decide what I wanted to keep vs. throw/give away, and what struck me as I sorted through everything was how delightful it was to be reminded of all these things that had once been important to me. The things I saved, the things I collected, the things I couldn't quite bring myself to part with. It's the memories they brought, of course, but also just the reminder of other phases of life. Things I had perhaps forgotten. Like how damn obsessed I was with those lanyards.

Is it sad that I ended up throwing or giving away probably 95% of everything in the boxes, including the lanyards? I think the answer you're looking for is yes. It's sad. It feels like my whole life just gone, with no way to now remember things like what my teachers said in the letters of recommendation they wrote for my scholarship applications or the songs my sister played at her violin recital or the note my co-star wrote on my program on the closing night of our high school performance of The Music Man. There's no way to remember them now, or to remind myself of them say ten, twenty, or thirty years from now when going through all the boxes again might have provided the same kind of delight. But the other side of coin, and one that cannot be ignored, is that I hadn't needed or really thought about anything in those boxes for, in most cases, decades. So what good was it doing me to have them sitting there, taking up space and collecting dust? What advantage would they serve at some future point in my life? It's this lens I used when considering each item, making it surprisingly easy to get rid of almost everything. It reminded me of moving to New York City several years ago, how I'd had to get rid of about 90% of what I owned in order to move to a tiny studio apartment. It was a similar decision process, in that only my favorite and most-used things were kept. I had to keep that filter in play or else I would get sad over parting with so much.

And so I'm focusing on the fact that the things I donated will hopefully find second, more useful lives with other people and families. I'm focusing on the memory of having gone through the boxes. After all, when I mentioned to the BF on the way back to the airport that I always pictured going through those boxes someday and them making me happy, he responded with, "And you got that. You got it today." It's sooner than I planned I guess, but he's right. I got that, and if happiness was the goal, then the whole endeavor was a complete success.

SEP
01

When a Writer Cleans House

I cleaned house yesterday. For seven hours. A few have expressed their bafflement as to how a house as small as mine could possibly take seven hours to clean, but this was a cleaning the likes of which I have never done in the 5 years I've lived here, at least not all at once. Going through every drawer, cupboard, and closet. Throwing away bags upon bags of crap I don't need, making a pile of stuff to give away, etc. It was quite an undertaking. One that left me exhausted from standing...not to mention lugging heavy bags and boxes up and down the stairs all day. But my house is now so improved, and I'm reveling in the lack of clutter; the improved organization.

Mass organization projects such as these affect me in ways they probably wouldn't if I weren't a writer. On one hand, they cause me to look back. I've been in my house for five years, and as I sorted through the photos, letters, and mementos I've acquired during these years, it was hard not to wax sentimental. A lot of things have gone down, from the most joyful to the most heartbreaking, and it's as if yesterday I relived them all. On the other hand, mass organization projects also cause me to look forward. The jumbo pack of Q-tips I found in the upstairs hall closet (Thank you, Costco) will last me nearly 1000 days, for instance. Almost three years. And I wonder what life will look like then. Will I still be in this house? This city? This job? All I know for sure is I'll be out of Q-tips, but it's a little exciting to think that even as an established adult, there are still unknowns out there; things to figure out, chances to take, trails to blaze--even if we are later to the game than we had always planned on being.

And all this just from cleaning out a closet. No wonder I only do it once every five years.