Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Reluctant Grown-Up Admits Her Problem

Sometime in the last year, I became a grown-up . . . much to my chagrin. I'm not sure how it happened, or why it happened, but it happened. How do I know this?

For one, I make the bed now. Every day. Sure, this has been going on only for a month, but that's big for me. Just ask my parents or any of my previous roommates. I attribute my newfound bedroom aestheticism to the photos we've hung over our bed. They only look right when the bed is made, with all three decorative pillows in place, and I want our apartment to look more like a home rather than just an apartment.

I also put away my clothes on laundry day. In the past, I would keep the hamper of clean clothes in the open, pull clothes from it each morning, and deposit the worn clothes in a growing pile on the floor . . . until laundry day rolled around once again. I attribute this domestic growth solely to my husband. We live in a small New York City apartment, and while there's plenty of floor space for dirty clothes, there's no closing the door to hide the shame from him or any guests. Not to mention, he puts away his clothes immediately--even when we get back from a trip late at night, he unpacks his suitcase. (While I put away my clothes on laundry day, I haven't picked up the habit of unpacking the suitcase right away. Even  if I am a grown-up, there's always room for more growth.)

I have a few names from my mom, two of which are Marcia (as in Brady, because I've always gotten myself hyper-involved) and Peter Pan. I cried on my twentieth birthday because I was sad to see my teen years go. Yes, growing up wasn't something I had planned for myself, even if I had no control over the fact that I would.  Lately I've started to realize that the small changes I was making in my life were leading me to an important discovery, but it wasn't until my trip to Ohio last weekend where I put it all together. I'm nearly twenty-seven, I'm married, and finally I'm admitting it: I am a grown-up.

And another confession: I was on my way to becoming a hoarder.  Sort of.  The cure?  Well, in my case, becoming a grown-up. Crazy how that worked out.

I went home last weekend for a very important reason: We found out Bailey has lymphoma. We're not sure how long she has, and it was important for me to go home and see her, sooner rather than later. But while I was home, my mother also had a mission for me: to go through my closet.

When my parents found out they were moving to North Carolina, I was still backpacking in Europe. So the packing was done while I was away. Sixth months later, when I was packing up my College Station house, I just threw everything into boxes, assuming I could sort through it when I arrived in North Carolina, where I planned on living with my parents until I figured out what I was doing. But five months later, without ever going through all the boxes, I moved to New York. Eight months later, my parents moved to Ohio with my unorganized closets in tow. So this past weekend, with no holiday celebrations, no errands, no husband, I had the time to sort through the boxes (and I do mean boxes) of memories.

There were folders and folders and folders of 5x7 and 8x10 photos I had enlarged while working at the CVS photo lab for four years. There were four boxes of cards, letters, and ticket stubs. There were school projects dating back to middle school and all the newspapers I worked on in high school. There were binders filled with memories of my college involvement with ALOT and Fish Camp. Craft projects, art supplies, unfinished scrapbooks and journals. For the most part, everything I had kept had some sort of sentimental value. So at least I had that going for me: I wasn't a hoarder of random objects, I was a hoarder of memories. And like that, I had an idea for my blog and title. And I also had an epiphany: It was time to let go.

It took us a few hours to get the closet clean, but it took me two nights to go through all of the memory boxes. I shredded the ticket stubs (mainly from Texas A&M football, but a few concerts here and there), excess photos, and letters from old pen pals (we're talking really old--when I first moved from New York to Virginia at nine years old). I shredded old cards, recycling the approved fronts to St. Jude's Ranch (it's a great program), and threw away the 35 mm negatives that I had digital copies of. When I was finished, I had four bags of shredded paper to be recycled and only one shoebox filled with memories, such as a card from my parents that made me cry, more so now that I realize Michael and I are only a few years away from being parents ourselves (we hope); a letter that Nicole wrote me while she was still in high school and I was having a hard time adjusting to A&M; a letter from Hilary that she had to write during class at the Air Force Academy (I felt so honored that she chose to write to me); a card from Ginna that made me so happy to realize how much we've grown together over the years, and how special our relationship is; and a few special cards from my grandparents and great-aunt.

I donated a lot of my unfinished artwork supplies to my mother's school, realizing that enough time has passed that I'll never really get back to them (not true for your scrapbook, Nicole, I PROMISE I will finish that . . . eventually).

And while almost all of the papers, pictures, and other assorted memories brought back happy feelings, there were a few downsides. There were pictures of Bailey as a puppy that sent me into tears as I realized why I was home in the first place. And there were cards and pictures from friends who have faded out over the last few years. I've moved states four times, so I know that some friends will come and go, that not everyone can continue a long-distance relationship. But there was a small group from college that I thought would still be around, that I would still talk to you and plan reunions with. That was one of the hardest parts of the cleaning: I missed those friends. I wondered what would have happened if I stayed in Texas. But then I realized that I would be giving up the greatest thing to come into my life: Michael. And for every card/picture with a long-lost friend, I found proof of friendships that grew from nothing over the years: cards from Sara, Jennie, Scott, and Brad, people who started off as mere acquaintances within my college organizations . . . but turned into my closest friends, friends who would later be a part of my wedding. Who knew?

In my defense, I told my parents that my hoarding had gotten this bad because I hadn't had the opportunities to go through and consolidate with the last two moves. And while that is part of the truth, the rest of it is, I don't think I was adult enough to say good-bye to so many childhood memories . . . as trivial as some of them seemed.

Maybe it's the fact that I live in a small New York apartment now, and I've learned not to hold on to so many things when there's not enough space. Maybe I realized that eventually those boxes and boxes and boxes would make their way to my own house (or at least I hope there's a house in my future). Maybe it was just the right time for me to realize that I am a grown-up.

I do know this: I can blog my adult experiences here, on this blog, in the electronic world. So at least I now know, even if I don't keep up with this blog and see it through, I won't have to throw out a half-used journal.