I cleaned my office this weekend. While not something that would normally be considered an activity of note, this particular workspace had been collecting paper, gadgets, gifts, books, and other miscellaneous detritus for three years.
The rest of my house is relatively tidy. I let dishes pile up because years of being the child who had to do the dishes instilled a healthy distaste for KP, and I tend to let mail collect over time because going through it is always anxiety-inducing, but generally speaking, items in my home have a place.
My desk has always been the exception – whenever I need to work on, think about, procrastinate on, avoid, accomplish, or be motivated by something, I place it on my desk. It’s a technique that works well at first and deteriorates in effectiveness as time and additional materials pile up.
It took all weekend to clean the desk, and in addition to the three bags worth of trash covering my desk, memories hid among the debris.
High school love. Formed from the explosive pairing of passion and lust and emotional immaturity, taken shape in a yellowed, intricately folded note from Katey Sellers, the first girl I ever dated seriously. Even as a freshman, she was more mature than I was as a junior, and when our relationship ended over a year later, for no real reason that I can remember, we both mourned and then moved on.
The strength of old friendships. Three years of photos of my best friend in high school, Sabrina Kahrer. Her handwriting on the back still legible, her sarcasm and humor still evident after the decades.
Impending adulthood. The journal I kept as I traveled with my family in a conversion van up the East Coast, stopping to interview at college after college. Calling my friends collect from each destination, keeping meticulous track of the stories I wanted to tell them.
The promise of hope. A new beginning, symbolized by an Easter basket and an optimistic note. Of course, beginnings tend to have endings, but the hope and warmth that eventually dissipated helped me transition from one stage of my life to another.
The power of new friendships. A photo strip captures seconds among friends. These are just a few of the people who are important to me, and it strengthens me to think of being there for those who inspire me, who love me, and who I care for.
What was. The cuteness and frivolity of notes filled with love and adoration, sent to me by the law student I dated, the lawyer I loved, the woman I married. At some point, the cheesiness and silliness and the goofiness faded, as I’m sure it does, and I didn’t do anything to get it back. But it was there, and it acts as a reminder to be vigilant for what I want and what I need to do to keep it.
What is. A compact mirror from BlogHer is an obvious reminder that in this online world, I’m a trespasser due to my gender. That respect and boundaries are paramount and each word and action requires consideration to avoid becoming intrusive.
I don’t get rid of these memories. Some of them lead me down dark paths, some build walls around my heart, and others make me smile. They’re all steps on the path that led me to the right now, and they’re important to keep and treasure, lest I forget my roots. But I’ll store them somewhere safe and start over with a freshly clean desk.