Nocturnal Reminders/ Existentialism

I’m a nocturnal being. I come alive at night once everyone else is asleep in their beds, or laying around looking at their phones in the dark. I come alive, but it just happens to be I’m usually sitting alone in my living room.

This can be a good and bad thing. Night is when I do most of my writing (even evidenced by the timing of my blog posts, which are, admittedly, unplanned rambles most of the time).  Night is when I act on whims (such as applying to graduate school and subsequently moving with my family to Scotland to study creative writing).*

*We didn’t move at night. I just apply for things at night.

The darkness also brings out nostalgia. This tendency is also well documented on my blog. But before this blog, there was another one. Some readers my age may remember…. LiveJournal. A good half-decade of my life is documented within its pages, the rambles and dramas of a teenager with a phone line and AOL.

I sometimes lurk back there in the wee hours, taking a look at what I was doing on this day in a certain year. Laughing at myself. Cringing. Struggling to remember what on earth I was going on about.

Tonight I looked at ten years ago, in 2005.

I worked at a daycare in Scotland and was taking an Open University course in Existentialism, which helped form my love of the particular branch of philosophy. Ten years ago, I was contemplating this passage from Nietzche in my journal:

“How, if some day or night a demon were to sneak after you into your loneliest and loneliness and say to you…..

‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything immeasurably small or great in life must return to you-all in the same succession and sequence…the eternal hourglass of existence is turned over and over, and you with it…how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life and to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?”

A decade ago, at 21, I thought I knew it all. My entry reads as smug in my recollection of life, as if two decades of breath brought with it the wisdom of the ages. I thought yes, I’d love to live my entire life over again, Nietzche. That’s how happy I am with it. Ha.

Much changes between 21 and 31. I don’t approach this proposition with the same confidence I did back then, on the cusp of adulthood and with zero responsibilities but my own daily happiness.

I love to reminiscence on those feelings, but the jolt I felt reading this tonight reminded me I should try to live my life with the same fervor I lived life ten years ago. So that if I were, as Nietzche proposed, forced to relive my entire life over and over again…I would have tried for my joy to outweigh any languishing, to seek laughter over tears, and to find happiness in the present.

Having this reminder laid on my soul tonight brought up many emotions, and most of them good.

We should all strive to live lives we can be proud of;  but those lives are made up of days, and those days are made up of moments.

And if we had to live those moments over and over again, wouldn’t we want to enjoy them?

You only get one shot.

The Nostalgic Hoarder

That’s me. The nostalgic hoarder. With all of my talk of simplifying, and my blogged endeavors at letting go, there remains one area where I am/was  woefully cluttered.

‘My Memories’ I’ve called them, as my husband and I  moved them from Colorado Springs to Boulder to Fargo to Moorhead and back to Fargo.

‘Make sure we don’t throw away any of my memories!’ I insist with every move and spring cleaning.

In this new, smaller apartment (thanks harassing neighbors who forced us to move), my ‘memories’ have nowhere to live but the garage. So I’ve been going through each box, one by one, over the past months and trying oh-so-hard to downsize.

My 10th grade Science folder? I finally put it in the bin, 15 years later. My NSYNC seat cushion from Mile High Stadium? Oh, that will be kept forever. A collector’s item, for sure.

Here are some of my weekend finds:


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My favorite Sketchers, 2002-2004.

I don’t usually save old shoes, although these were a firm favorite mine. But I harbored them because they are The Shoes I wore when I met my now husband, Alex. I’ve saved the frayed jeans and blue velour hoodie I wore to the pub that fateful night, as well.

I’m a bit spacy, and excitable by nature.  Back then, in  late 2003 when I meet Alex, I was also still jet-lagged. So I don’t have a ton of memories of the event itself. My best friend Susan and I walked into the Edinburgh pub The Brass Monkey expecting to watch a movie, but ended up ordering Coca Colas and being teased by the barman in the black tshirt.

Alex.

I can picture the way he grinned at me, and how he flirted. But somehow, looking at these shoes makes it seem more tangible, and brings back those feeling I had in the pub. I can remember how it felt to walk in those shoes.

So, I wondered yesterday. Should they stay or should they go?

This was, indeed, a tough one. In the end, they’ve stayed, and I tell myself maybe one day they’ll be…..vintage. For anyone who wants to know what a backpacking teenager wore in 2003.

This is, perhaps, one semester's worth of notes.  What would the kids of today think?
This is, perhaps, one semester’s worth of notes. What would the kids of today think?

Next, I tried to tackle my memory shoeboxes. Each shoebox equals one school year’s worth of ticket stubs, passed notes, concert confetti, and birthday cards. As I went through these (and I still have some to organize, admittedly), I found cards from people who I honestly can’t place. Into the garbage they went. I found old glowsticks, presumably from a concert. Binned. But I kept the concert confetti, and I kept every one of my notes, including those above:  a small sample of one year in the life of Susan and Alana at Coronado High School.

The content of the notes is priceless. One of the notes contains apologies for tear stains. Most contain codewords and initials in an attempt to avoid interception by nosy parties. All include declarations of love for Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez and for each other, as BFFS and NFFs.

I’ll never toss these notes, and I’m so glad to have them. I wonder how today’s communication will be saved for the future? Snapchat is gone in a flash. The handwritten note ran the risk of falling into the wrong hands, but that was all part of the fun.

Next, I found a bittersweet look into my psyche, 2003…..

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When I found this, I could have literally cried. Here I sit in Fargo, 12 years older and none the wiser, and I feel the choice has been made for me. It makes me feel foolish to think I sat, as a 19 year old with the world at my fingertips, and contemplated choosing NORTH DAKOTA over California for college.

No offense, North Dakota. But really.

In the end, my best friend Susan and I ended up going on a student work exchange to Scotland instead, and the rest is history.

But I don’t remember writing this list. I remember applying to both MSUM and Santa Monica College and getting into both. I remember thinking MSUM would be a safe adventure. Ultimately we choose the least safe option of all, moving to Scotland.

This list went into the trash pile, out of pure annoyance.

And what of my box full of college papers and exams? I’ve been lugging around the answer to Hume’s Fork for 13 years.

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This  too went straight into the garbage pile, mainly out of embarrassment I couldn’t possibly get an ‘A’ on the same exam today. Thanks, short-term memory. No, seriously. Thanks for getting me through college.

Next….

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My more recent habit is keeping boarding passes, hotel maps, and other ‘memories’ in my carry on backpack. This means I’ve been hauling maps of London to Cancun, and have the correct walk-in massage information for Covent Garden  on my person as I drive up to Winnipeg.

It’s not laziness; I think I just don’t want to let go of my most recent travels. They seem so immediate right there in my bag.

But I took the step and moved them to a memory box – but only the mementos which held meaning.

And then, finally. Photos.

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Without this gem of a picture, I would never remember taking a swipe at a Britney Spears piñata (her crime: dating Justin Timberlake), nor would I remember the look of absolute glee on Susan’s face. I certainly wouldn’t have remembered wearing jeans up to my rib cage, and I doubt I would have been able to recall the on point way we all managed to look appropriately disdainful.

How could you, Britney? Justin was OURS. OURS, I tell you.

I don’t throw away old photographs. But I haven’t been amazing at organizing them and digitalizing them, either.

If there were a fire, I’d probably grab Alistair, Weasley and my bag of pictures.

(Alex would be fine to get out on his own, but of course he’s top of the list, as well)

I find great value in Scrapbooking, for those who have the attention span. I’ve started loads, and I love the first few pages I have.

Ha.

I think the best course of action is organization and photo albums, out in the open where people can enjoy them. Making digital copies is also important in case of things such as fires.

But I wholeheartedly believe photos are worth keeping.

So, by the end of the weekend I managed a few bags of trash amongst my boxes of memories.

Just some of the boxes:

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As fun as it was to ponder my past via memory boxes, it also felt good to through some of it away. Moderation was my guide, and I think it served me well.

If you are a nostalgic hoarder like me, here are some general tips I’d pass on:

1. If you can’t remember the person who sent you the note or the card, ponder it in amusement before throwing it away. Same goes for random objects and useless glowsticks.

2. Don’t be afraid to box up things you wish to keep, and then put them away. They’re safer in your garage than in your carryon backpack as you go from trip to trip.

3. If you can work it out, minimize the space ‘memories’ take up by condensing into smaller boxes which fit into bigger boxes, arranged by year or, in some cases by person (such as the ‘Alistair’ box).

4. Be wary of larger items of substandard collector value (such as my Nsync seat cushion, which I just couldn’t let go of). But I did throw away all of my NSYNC calendars, for example.

5. If something truly brings you joy, why let it fester in a box? See if you can find a new use for it.

6. If in doubt, throw it out.

7. But don’t be ashamed of nostalgia. We’re all human, after all, and our memories make up our lives. Little reminders of good times and good things can bring joy when you really need a boost. They can give others a boost as well.

And last of all, but most importantly…..don’t stop making new memories.

Yeah, so my dramatic teenage years are gone, and I can’t meet my husband again for the first time. But we’re making new memories as a family, and one day Alistair will be able to look back on things he doesn’t remember, such as the year he lived in Scotland, and we will be able to tell him about it.

We wouldn’t be able to tell him about it if we hadn’t gone.

Creating memories is much more important than saving them

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