I’ve always been sentimental.
Even as a kid I was thinking about preserving special moments. When I was twelve, my friend Jenny and I buried a time capsule in my backyard. We filled it with friendship bracelets, tapes of us talking and singing, and photos of us in matching jean overalls. We even hid a map in my house titled “A Map To The Greatest Treasure You Will Ever Find: Friendship.”
Jenny – if you’re reading this – we should go dig that thing up. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it.
Now an adult, I save everything – placing it in one of my many “memory boxes.” My husband, Jason, calls this hoarding – I call it preservation.
Recently, my hoarding – er, I mean preservation – had gotten a little out of control. I wasn’t able to go into my office without having a small panic attack. My closet was stuffed with old prom dresses, my drawers were filled with birthday cards from 1997, and my childhood books were gathering dust under the bed.
I decided I couldn’t live like this.
I had to cut down, to weed out the memories. Armed with grim determination I turned on the most inspiring music I had (Celine Dion’s 1996 Album “Falling Into You”) and began pulling things out, one by one. The things I found included:
Plastic jewelry, an outdated atlas, every single Christmas card anyone has ever sent me, printer ink for a printer I don’t have, a flip phone, dry markers, one tennis shoe, and every handbook from every job I’ve ever worked.
Buried under all of that crap were wonderful, touching things as well. So touching, in fact, that when Jason opened the door he found me sitting on the bed, surrounded by old pictures, sobbing.
“I can never go home again, you know?” I gulped, waving around a photo of me in a bowl cut and no front teeth. “I can just never go home again.”
I picked up another photo of me in a bikini from high school.
“And I used to have abs!” I wailed.
After I blew my nose and calmed down I got to thinking about what really made me so emotional.
Lately, my life has been moving forward at what feels like lightning speed. I got married, I’ve made career leaps – things have really started to fall into place in a way that makes me feel like I might be on the right path.
It’s all good, it’s all positive, and it’s all incredibly terrifying. I want to grab time by the collar and slow it down. I want to stand still for a second and soak in a little bit of my life as it is right now.
What I realized, crying over the photos in my office, is that I will never be able to come back to this place in my life. Just like I’m not able to go back to that place when I had abs.
Or the place before I knew about future heartbreaks and future triumphs, the place when almost all of my grandparents were living, or the place before I knew my metabolism would slow down.
That’s what I’m really trying to hang on to in all my saving and hoarding. I’m trying to preserve the impossible.
The truth is I can never go back.
In order to move forward in our lives we have to leave things behind. We have to keep flying at warp speed, keep striving and dreaming.
Even if I still lived in North Dakota, in that same farmhouse, outside of that same town I wouldn’t be the same person.
That night, I slipped the photos back into the (now very organized) drawers, and went to snuggle with my husband.
Because someday I’m going to look back at these days and cry too.
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.