Adam Avitable's messy desk

Memories among the trash

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.

Adam Avitable's messy desk

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.

Adam Avitable's note from high school girlfriend Katey Sellers

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.

High school photos of Adam Avitable's best friend Sabrina

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.

Adam Avitable's journal when he looked at colleges

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.

A card with an Easter basket

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.

Photo strip of Adam Avitable, Lanie, and Savannah

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.

Notes Adam Avitable received

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.

A compact mirror from BlogHer

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.

Adam Avitable's clean desk

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10 Replies to “Memories among the trash”

  1. Rachel

    Adam, Adam, Adam…. My desk can be that clean one day and a week later look like your 3 year old mess. I never find cool stuff on my desk though. I, to this day, don’t understand how I can keep an immaculate house and my desk looks like an atom bomb went off!

  2. rose

    Aww! This is sweet, mostly sweet… some bittersweet too. Kudos to cleaning your desk. Thankfully my desk is in storage. I hate dealing with mail too, and being the product of two incredible HOARDERS (you heard it here first, folks) – I can have some pack-rat tendencies. I save old notes, and love finding them… especially the OBMS and SCHS intricately-folded kind. Those are the best.

    I put up a corkboard on my desk (back when it wasn’t living in a storage unit) and that totes helped. Maybe keep one nearby. Or get one of those laundry bin sorters to act as a mammoth filing system?

    Good luck keeping it tidy! And don’t let those walls get too big, now.

  3. Bonnie

    The trip down memory lane sounds like it was (mostly) a good thing… always tears mixed in with the laughter when you take a journey like that one. But a great thing? Is that pack of Orange Creamsicle gum I spied in the “before” pic. Not such a big fan of the Mint Chocolate Chip in the “after” pic, though. The Orange Creamsicle ties for best with Rainbow Sherbert – if you haven’t tried that one, you have to!!! I’d skip the Apple Pie flavor if I were you, though.

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