Most people would have taken a glance at their pile of old papers from school and thrown them away. But for me, piles of old papers are my weakness. I used to keep far too many of them. Now I keep only a little too many.
I throw away more than I keep, but I give most of them one last look over before heading for the trash. One last chance to spark my interest or convince me of their value. Most fail to make a good case for themselves, and have to leave. It's a process that's simultaneously enjoyable and unenjoyable. I enjoy looking things over before I finally decide I'm through with them. They provide a small memory, some amusement as I see a funny doodle on the margins, or some satisfaction knowing I got a 98% on a test.
What's unenjoyable is the nagging feeling that caused me to keep so many of them in the first place. The fear that once the memento is gone, the memory will be gone too. I don't know why I feel sad about the possibility of forgetting what grade I got on some test in one of many classes I took in Jr. college. I suppose I don't feel sad -too strong of a word- or I wouldn't throw it away. I know that only so many memories should be rewarded with room and board. There's only so much space in my head.
But I feel uncomfortable throwing them away; throwing away their guarantee of remembrance no matter how insignificant. And I feel pressured to decide their fate when they don't fit neatly into the stay or go categories. What if I make a mistake? Somehow I don't like that there are large chunks of my life that pass by, and fade away unnoticed. I lived through something, put effort into it, and that thing had a little meaning to me at the time. And now I throw it away.
I can throw most of it away now because I've gained some perspective I guess. I think of all the good memories, especially from when I was fairly young, that have no direct mementos. They mean more to me than a paper I wrote in a class, in a school I didn't totally care for, and they're gone. I also feel burdened by the clutter of memories. Part of me wants to be free, to not feel attached. Because their meaning isn't very great (the papers or the memories), they only serve to weigh me down, and in their own way, rob me of the present. So I let them go, and feel better for having done so than if I had kept them.
I used to think memories were worth keeping for the sake of being memories, for the sake of there being a record of a certain portion of your life, and so I have many papers to serve as protectors of those memories. But now I'm willing to let a lot of them go. I suppose most, if not all of the ones you keep should remind you of people and places you loved, or particularly enjoyed, and of achievements that are still important to you. And even then, the best memories don't need mementos to be enjoyed and remembered. I'm learning that not all memories are equal. And as contrary as it is to my nature, I'm learning that it's ok to forget.