About a week ago, I started cleaning my room. I found so many things that I had accumulated over the years: movie ticket stubs, carnival wristbands, gift bags, and clothes spanning across three departments and about a dozen different sizes.
For years, I’ve known that I should get rid of a lot of these things, but I’ve never been able to because I’d think to myself, “but [insert person I love here] bought this for me” or “but I got this when [insert important event here] happened.”
The list goes on; I was officially a hoarder.
It wasn’t until I went to a concert recently that a realization washed over me. I spent a good chunk of the concert debating about whether or not I should buy a t-shirt until I got so lost in the music that t-shirts didn’t matter anymore. That nothing mattered but the music beating through the speakers and sparking electricity into my soul. Nothing mattered but the songs and the band and the lights and the crowd and the connection we all shared, hearts all beating to that same song in that one moment, despite the different meanings it had to each of us. As that song filled the auditorium, it told so many different stories. So many things that we would never understand. So many things that carried us and broke us and tore us and built us back up; a crescendo of loss and gain and love and heartbreak and truth. There, we were vulnerable, the words that have a place in our hearts exposed, our feelings scattered into a song that we all decipher differently. And that was when I realized that a t-shirt could never express those stories, or lock them in my heart until the end of time. Thinking back, concert t-shirts have never made me feel the cool night air or hear the people sing along to a song that touches them so deeply or feel the bass within my chest or see the lights casting down upon all of us.
When I opened my closet, I realized that the stories of my life were not composed of these material things. The material things were merely there.
And I was there, too.
I was there with one of my best friends, dancing without a care in the world and singing along to a song that tied me to strangers in a way that I could never fully explain. I was wearing burgundy colored shorts and a black t-shirt, and that detail means absolutely nothing when telling the story. The stories were created by me and my family and my friends and my enemies and strangers. They were created by the rise of the soon and the dip of the waves and the glare of the moon and the sparkle of the lights and my smile and the smiles I got in return.
And getting rid of the ticket stub and not buying a t-shirt does not erase any of that.
The faded wristband from the carnival doesn’t tell the story of how I had my heart broken and the necklace that I got from someone who broke my heart means nothing and the clothes my mom bought me when I was younger didn’t make me laugh like she did and the worlds that I created with my stuffed animals don’t just disappear.
Besides, it’s time for someone else to create those worlds, then pass the toys on for new worlds to be created again. It’s nice to keep souvenirs to feel that little pang in our hearts when we look at them, but getting rid of clothes that no longer fit you doesn’t erase the fact that you were ever small, just like getting rid of a concert ticket doesn’t erase the fact that you ever went. These things in my closet may have helped inscribe me with words. May have caused feelings that made me who I am. But really, that was less about the items and more about the people; more about our thoughts and our ideas and our adventures and our bonds. The kinds of bonds that don’t break when we stop wearing a friendship bracelet.
I had also been holding onto things that really did only leave bruises; kept wounds open deeper than they needed to be. I’m getting rid of that necklace, and that doesn’t stop me from being sad sometimes. But now, I realize that it’s truly just a necklace. Just a stupid strand of silver that I locked away and bottled up. I could throw it out on the street and nothing would change. Except that maybe it would make someone else happy, even if for only a moment. I used to worry that my mom would feel sad if I gave away the clothes that she bought me in middle school. But the truth is that love really isn’t measured that way, and that saving doesn’t freeze moments forever the way we’d like to think it does out of fear of forgetting.
I know it’s scary; tossing out something that was alongside you during your greatest adventure, your toughest lesson. I don’t plan on getting rid of everything. I don’t plan on not trying to support musicians or businesses anymore. But I do plan on being less materialistic.
So here I stand, older now. I take off that old wristband, and in doing so, I’m not stripping myself of all the lessons I learned, all the tears I cried, all of the laughs I shared, all of the fears I overcame. I’m still me, and those moments are still mine, no matter who owns the outfit I wore that day. As I approach the future, no matter how bare my walls, my closet, and my purse get, I’m not stepping into the world empty-handed.