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De-cluttering Old Schoolwork

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I went in the attic to locate a buried research paper example for my husband. He has to write a 10 to 12-pager by the end of the semester and doesn’t even know what one looks like. Well, being an English major, I had 10 to 15-pagers aplenty. So I went on a search to find one that I could easily explain to him. A paper deconstructing literature would’ve been much too difficult to break down for him.

I found the paper I was looking for quite easily and then I tried to pry something…anything…out of the box and into the garbage. After all, I know I will never return to those notes or those posters or any of it really. I paged through one notebook and thought about it in the garbage and immediately returned it to the box. I just.can’t.do.it. Short of someone coming in with a pry bar, I cannot let these papers go. The time invested. The real raw blood, sweat and tears. Those four whole gruelling years of full-time school and full-time work to put myself through college. It feels like trying to amputate my own limb.

I marveled at the way I could write. I mean, I know I can write, but sometimes I forget exactly how keen my intellect can be amidst piles of research and analysis. I’ll admit, looking through the papers calms my inferiority complex a bit. Especially coming across all the letters and stickers I got for being on the Dean’s list almost every semester. I don’t mean to boast, because most of the time I’m pretty hard on myself, but sometimes those gentle reminders of our talents and abilities really do give us a boost.

Then, I think about my kids coming across my old papers one day. I came across old papers from my mom’s elementary school days and I was completely enamored. Seeing her handwriting and her grades and imagining her in cute red polyester jumpsuits sitting at her Catholic school desk was just too sweet to miss. I wondered if somehow I time-traveled and ended up in her same class, if we would instantly be best friends. Wanting to immerse myself in that sentiment, I even swiped one of her rad retro leftover folders.

Being the writer that I am, the back page of every one of my notebook was littered with my word graffiti. Story ideas were born there. Poems originated in the margins. My favorite words were recorded there. The beauty of being a harried student and full-time worker is that the best ideas are born out of the overwhelming chaos. My muse materializes during bouts of over-scheduling and information overload. I built a lot of my best work off of those scribbled-up “back pages.”

A friend and I just had a conversation about decluttering old school papers. She just did it with a shrug of the shoulder and her head turned the other way. I told her that I really tried to channel her in my own purge attempt, but it totally failed. I’m convinced that pieces of my identity are tucked inside the folds in there. It’s only one box anyway. It’s not like Hoarders territory or anything. I’ll think I’ll keep them just a little longer.

Is there anything that you still cling to? Your favorite dolly from childhood (oops, I’m guilty of this one too), your collection of Tonka trucks or pen pal letters?

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