Oh, what to do with your past?
As a person who is *somewhere* in her 30s, perhaps this should have been figured out by now. And yet, to date, (and this is terribly embarrassing to admit) my childhood bedroom has never been cleaned out. Now, stop right there: it’s been cleaned, mind you, just not cleaned OUT.
Yes, take a pause, and gasp, in shock and horror. (Believe me, I’m gasping with you.)
My parents’ home is a comforting museum of collectables, each corner filled with a relic or talisman from the past. My childhood bedroom, by default, had become an extension of that. A place for me to crash when I’d come home from college or to take a break from New York City. And with each transition, I’d leave clothes I’d grown out of, notes and tests I’d taken at school, books I didn’t want in my increasingly small living spaces. The bedroom became a storage unit, collecting more and more of the past while I’d move on into my future, new apartments, new cities, new relationships forgetting about what was there until I’d come home for a visit.
And so it sat. Collecting. My faeries. My dolls. My photos. My childhood.
Now that I’m married, my husband and I are now “allowed” to stay in the extra guest bedroom, together, which left my childhood bedroom to be turned into another guest room.
Which meant: it was time to deal with my past.
I decided to confront the situation head-on, but was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it all. The walls of my closet were lined floor to ceiling with posters and playbills from shows I’d been in spanning age 9 to 29. Clothes were crammed into every possible nook. There were costumes, wigs, and hats in hat boxes. There were pictures of old friends, high school graduation, and college parties still covering my bulletin board. Every square inch of the bedroom itself was filled: CDs, videos, books, books, and more books, knick knacks, photo albums, binders of plays I’d been in, music I’d sang, old tax information, and Playbills from EVERY show I’d ever seen collecting dust in boxes under the bed. Hair ties, costume jewelry, dolls, and puppets. I could go on.
It’s easy to “Marie Kondo” your current life when you set foot in a fresh new apartment, as my husband and I did when moving in together. But it’s much harder to “Konmarie” your history, the items you’ve diligently saved, held onto for years. Sentimental items. Because it’s supremely difficult to [be practical about anything sentimental].
I came upon boxes and boxes of old letters, cards and secret middle school notes which had been sneakily passed back and forth in class (some written in a language I absolutely cannot decipher). But the real treasures were the journals, journals I’d kept from the 6th grade till now, many engraved with the inscription: “PRIVATE JOURNAL-Please-Do-Not-Read-This-Journal-cause-if-you-do-it-would-be-VERY-MEAN-and-RUDE-this-is-PRIVATE!”
And so begs the question: what to do with them? I searched online for clever ways to deal with old notebooks. Many save only passages they love. Some take photographs of those passages, or just get rid of them all together. Some can’t bring themselves to throw even a word away. So I asked myself: did I ever really need to read these again? Had I even known they had existed before Operation-Kondo-my-childhood-bedroom? Would I miss them if I did throw them away?
The only way to find out was to begin reading them. Every few nights, I’ve been diligently consuming 5-10 pages over a glass of wine, and laugh, cry, feel everything all over again, and nothing all over again. I’ll read particularly hilarious excerpts of ultimate teenage seriousness aloud to my tolerant husband. And some passages completely broke my heart. All over again. And I realized while reading through the devastation of my middle school and adult heartaches that maybe reading these journals was a one-time experience.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll read some of the hilarious passages aloud on video for laughs, or maybe I’ll collect them and paste them in a personal book, or type them up onto an online journal.
The rest? Kindling.
I know! It might sound depressing! But, like the Frozen song, I’m really quite ready to let them go. I truly believe they served their purpose; they were useful and important in their time, a place to confess my deepest feelings and jot down my dreams and hopes and desires. I thank my journals for keeping my writings safe for so long. I give them my full gratitude, knowing it’s time to release the past to make way for the future.
Or really, just to be here, now.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’ve done with your old notebooks and journals! Feel free to share your ideas below!