I am somewhat of a hoarder. I don’t throw stuff out easily. I have this insane notion that I might someday need an expired cell phone bill I paid 5 years ago for a number that is not even in service anymore. There comes a time, however, when more space must be made and one must get rid of the old so that there is room for growth.
I got some empty cardboard boxes from the basement and armed myself with several garbage bags before starting on the herculean task of cleaning out my closet. Shelf by shelf the memories came back to me. The withered pencil case housing an enormous collection of colorful pens was one of the first things I noticed. I used to collect pens: different color inks mixed with glitter, some with scents ranging from blueberry and bubblegum to popcorn and chocolate, always with the appropriate ink attached to the smell (yes, the popcorn pen had white ink). I remember how important it was to have all of them for my collection, nevermind that I hardly ever used any of them.
Further down the shelves I found my report cards, my school awards, the papers I submitted for admittance to higher education and a yearbook of sorts my high school had the year I graduated. I still can’t believe it’s been almost six years to the day. I also found photographs from that same year of my friends and me taking stupid poses and making funny faces in the classroom we spent our days in. How happy and carefree we seemed… At the time we thought we would explode from the stress. Now I know that what seemed the weight of the world on our shoulders was actually nothing compared to what was in store for us: university and then adulthood. Sometimes I still think of myself as a seventeen-year-old girl waiting for her life to begin. At seventeen, time seems like something running in front of you that you need to reach. But as the years pass the burden of time grows heavier. At twenty-four, time ceases to be on your side. Growing older means assuming more responsibilities, giving up unrealistic goals for more realistic ones, letting go of childhood dreams in favor of reality. In adult life expectations are meant to be met.
Then came the magazines, the comic books, the posters and the endless scrapbooks I used to make of things I was a fan of at the time. I dug up countless articles and pieces of paper of everything that was trending 10 years ago, from Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to Pirates of the Caribbean and many more. It is nice to be reminded that you were actually a teenager once and your biggest concern was which celebrity poster looked the cutest to hang on your bedroom wall. I remember how important those things used to be to me. I went through the trouble of saving them all these years. Looking at them now made me realize that I’m not the same person I was ten years ago. I’m not the same person I was last year. It still surprises me how the silly things I once thought were so important, are nothing but pieces of paper that need recycling now.
Papers get crumpled. Things decay. Priorities change. People grow up. No doubt in another ten years when I decide to clean my closet again, I will look back at the person I am now and not recognize myself in what I find. It’s funny how one can remember oneself and know how much and how little one has changed between then and now. The hard part is adjusting to the version of oneself, the person only realized in retrospect.
I guess they call it spring cleaning because spring is the perfect time of the year for starting over. It is the time to throw away everything that isn’t useful anymore and make room for what is. It is the time for acceptance and growth. How does one move forward, without discarding what has outgrown its usefulness? Memories are precious and we should always hold onto them. But that is not the same as living in the past. Throw away what no longer works. Only then will there be room for what is to come.