Fresh off the success of last week's photo sorting, yesterday I decided to sort through boxes of memorabilia. Our marriage mythology holds that I am the one who holds onto worthless junk masquerading as memorabilia while my spouse happily releases all of his stuff. I can count boxes, and I am here to say that although I once believed our marriage mythology, I'd say it's about even.
Here are some other nuggets of insight that I've gleaned from our sorting:
--I seem to have kept every note that anyone ever passed to me in class my senior year of high school. Most of them were fairly banal: "I am so tired. I could put my head down on this desk and fall right asleep. Do you think it's going to rain?"
--I understand why I kept those notes: I was so happy to finally have friends who would write notes with me during boring moments in class when we were supposed to be paying attention. So I kept one or two of the banal notes, along with the ones where we were talking about more important stuff, like which concerts we might go see.
--Did I keep every card or letter that anyone ever wrote to me in college or does it just seem that way? I imagine that I kept the ones that seemed important at the time. Some of them seem trivial now--I can't deduce any nugget of importance, which makes me think I kept every single one. Some of them still seem important, like a best friend, now deceased, figuring out that she wasn't as heterosexual as she'd been trying to be back in high school. I kept the ones that still seem important.
--I am staggered by all the notebooks of writing from high school and college, and that's not counting my journals. I remember writing lots of poetry, much of it prose broken up into lines to resemble poetry on the page. I always thought I wrote 3 short stories during my senior year of college after taking a fiction class. That's not true. I have so many spiral notebooks full of writing--so many years of writing. I kept a few representative pieces, and the rest can go to the recycling bin.
--When I finished my PhD, I threw myself into novel writing--I had all these ideas, and I'd been waiting to have time to devote to them. Those manuscripts only exist in paper form; the computers that created them bit the dust long ago, and word processing updates have made the disk files inaccessible. What to do with a pile of manuscripts that I'm not going to revise, and because of their length and beginner quality, I don't particularly want to read again? I think I'm ready for them to go to the recycling bin.
--My grad school training taught me about the importance of every draft, that future scholars would want to compare them. At this point, I'm fairly sure that future scholars won't want to do that with my work. I am fairly sure that if my work endures, it's not the novels that people will treasure.
--One reason they won't treasure them is that they aren't published and aren't likely to be. Sigh. I do feel certain that if a publisher wanted to publish one of my novels, it wouldn't be one of the ones written last century.
--And that voice in my head, the one that is my truest believer in me and my writing, that voice is now saying, "Of course they won't publish those--not if you throw away the last remaining copies!" But trust me, sweet voice: that work is not the important work.
--Last night, surrounded by all sorts of detritus, I said, "Once I wrote a lot." My spouse said, "You still do." He's right--it's a good reminder. I don't have spiral notebooks full of everything I'm writing now, but if I printed it all out, I'd fill up those memorabilia boxes again.