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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.

JUN
10

Goodbye to all that

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I've been reading a collection of essays written by female writers who have at some point lived in (and left) New York. It's amazing how conflicted we writer folk can be about this city, and in almost every essay is what I've come to dub an inevitable waffling between how we could never leave new York and the fact that we can't leave fast enough because being here is, at most, draining and shallow, and, at worst, sort of sucky. In these essays there are three camps of people: those who love New York, those who hate New York, and those who--for better or for worse--feel an unnamed sense of belonging, pull, and attraction to being in New York. This final group are those who even after moving away end up moving back; those who even if they choose not to move back still pine for the city every day, wish they were there again, home.

I suppose you could say I belong to this third group of people, although I'm not really sure why. It's not like New York was ever mine. Certain of the essayists make quite clear, in fact, how annoyed they are with these so-called baby New Yorkers who move to the city with big dreams and after a few months of living with a bunch of roommates in a small flat in the East Village start going around claiming the city as their own. But when I say I belong to this third group, it's because my attraction to New York is something I cannot help. It's wired into me. I know this because living here has been hard. I've found many aspects of it much more challenging than I had ever anticipated, yet the thought of leaving tomorrow has me weepy.

To me, New York City equals possibility. On a grand scale, certainly, and the fact that I've been able to complete and fulfill a dream while here certainly boosts the life-making fantasy I've got going in my mind when I think of Manhattan. But I'm talking about possibility on a small scale, too. Because no other city is like this. No other city offers so much in the way of daily activities, eateries, or attractions. Any day could take you in any number of directions and result in any number of outcomes, favorites, and new friends. As an introvert, it's not even as if I was taking full advantage of this, but the point is that it's there for you when you want it. And there is comfort in that. Not to suggest that I'm sad about beginning a new chapter on the other side of the country (translation: I am totally sad), but I know every night will find me wondering what everyone in New York is up to, feeling the way you feel in dreams when you've been left behind, beating off with a stick this annoying sense that a bunch of fun is being had without you. Having now lived in New York, I know it will absolutely be true. To quote the essay that opens the book, "California has taught me this: you can take the girl out of New York, but all that accomplishes is taking the girl out of New York." I guess we'll just have to see.

OCT
22

The Shredder

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I have company coming into town this weekend. This is rather momentous, as no one ever has cause to come through Cleveland, so needless to say, my spare room needs a lot of work. Not only is it my writing room, but it's also the dump-anything-you-don't-want-to-hang-up-or-put-away-or-deal-with-right-now room.

Full printed out and marked up drafts of both of my manuscripts were in there, and since it seemed a little weird to just drop them in one of those Shred-It bins (nothing good can come from leaving manuscripts anywhere...isn't that the point of The Words?), I sat down last night to the task of shredding them. Of course, after about twenty minutes of shoving a constant stream of papers through the machine, I started to get sentimental. They were my words. My drafts. All my corrections and edits a smattering of red across each page. It doesn't matter, it won't be worth anything to anyone someday because notoriety is probably not in my cards, but it was enough to make me stop shredding. Well, that, and I had broken the shredder.

Tonight's task: Removing the year+'s worth of People magazines also being kept in the spare room and that need to be recycled. Pretty sure those I can part with.

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.