The world goes by pretty quickly these days, and there’s a lot of stuff. Little things, big things – things, yes, but also experiences, moments, snapshots, lights , videos, sayings, updates, soundbytes, notifications, quotes, messages, stories. Coming at us fast.
Trust me – it was not always this way.
It’s hard to imagine, but just 20 years ago, when I walked into a library, I went to a large chest of drawers filled with small alphabetically-organized cards.
I used my fingers to pick through the cards, one by one, until I came to what I was looking for. Then I copied the code onto paper and began searching the stacks on foot.
When I read the library book, I took notes by hand in a binder filled with looseleaf paper. After writing an essay by hand, I carefully typed it into a word processor and print it out.
I would save an extra copy on a “floppy” drive – a hard 4×4-inch disk.
I have many of these disks, and none of them is able to insert into any drives on my computers.
This morning I was reading the paper and saw an article saying the Sri Lankan government is now recognizing people who disappeared during the civil war. In university I wrote a paper on human rights abuses and disappearances carried out by Sri Lankan government soldiers, especially upon Tamil populations. Now where is this paper?
It’s on one of those disks, locked up and lost to me . . . The hard copy was dumped long ago with loads of other file boxes during one or another move across the country. No record of my brilliance. I figured then I’d never need it now.
But now, I want to read my own paper, see what I discovered. I want to read all my university papers and find out where I was headed at that time in my life.
But the record that seemed so indelible because it was electronic has now become obsolete. Time and technology have moved too fast for me.
And so I’ve lost an old friend that was me in my younger days.
Luckily I’ve kept a mountain of journals from childhood to present, which I mine for clues and threads that give my life meaning. At this point in my journey, I’m continuing to think about what I want to put down about myself. How do I want to be read in hard copy?
What do I want to save? How do I save myself?
In these times, in this sparkly culture, it’s easy to throw stuff away. There’s piles of everyone’s gear behind every thrift store in town. All is at our fingerprints, new and used and in between. It’s easy to expect a certain foreverness to things. But things go away – your really fave things, if you don’t look after them. And sometimes it’s nice to really wear out your best shirt, wear it so much it starts falling off you.
So just save some good stuff, that’s all. Don’t let everything sit on your drive. Get a box, print out your writing, collect your photos, fold up the scarred & tattered fave t-shirt, even include your old stuffie if that floats your boat.
Keep a real, tangible, touchable record of you. Even if you think it doesn’t make sense now, or it’s tedious . . . later on, it will be one of the good commitments you made to yourself.
When you take the time to set aside some of yourself in real time, I think it slows down the world just so.
The one thing all the lights and action don’t give you is a nice bit of peace and quiet.