When I woke up this morning, I had but one thing on my mind: today, you seriously have to clean your room. I had dealt with the floor last night, but the formidable tasks of cleaning out my closet, clearing my desk and dresser of the stacks of school supplies and other miscellaneous items that had been gathering on them for the past few months, and going through all my clothes, still lay before me. I decided to start with the closet, not even partially aware of the roller coaster of emotions that lay before me.
I began by taking out all of the clothes I had hanging up, deciding one by one whether to keep or donate them. That was easy enough, but as you probably know, the deeper in your closet you search, the farther you delve into your own life, finding things that remind you of the person you were long ago. I felt a pleasant sense of nostalgia as I unearthed a box that held some of my belongings from when I was younger. I found my first diary, adorned with pictures of Disney princesses, and couldn’t help but smile as I read each entry, one by one. I felt an almost indescribable bittersweetness. I just seemed so happy and carefree as I detailed the events of my day. I was sad when I turned to the first blank page, because while I was reading it, I was immersed in a joyful bubble of my past. It can be painful to wonder if you will ever be as truly happy as you once were long ago. I know I have to move forward in my life and create my own happiness, but I can’t help but long for a time when I sat on my floor, writing about how good my day was in glitter pens, and drawing pictures of my parents and I playing together.
The next things I found in the box weren’t so easy to process. I found a series of letters and cards I had been written when I was younger. It hurt to see the nice, neat handwriting of my aunt who can now barely hold a pen since developing Parkinson’s disease, and it hurt to see my grandmother writing sweet things to me about how she missed me everyday and wished I was with her, especially now that I’m the one who misses her everyday after she passed away two years ago. I would love to go back to a time where my aunt was healthy and spend the day doing things with her, and I would really love to write my grandmother a card, telling her that I missed her too. It’s tough to move past loss, but you have to, no matter how painful it can be.
I felt a different kind of pain as I found the box’s last contents: a few letters to me from my other grandmother’s closest friends. She passed away very shortly after I was born, and I never got the chance to know her. All that I really have is that my parents told me that the first time I ever had a real, light-up-the-room type smile was when she held me for the first time in her hospital bed. These letters were for me, to read when I was older, and they talked about how special my grandma was, and how much her friends knew she loved me. Reading these was especially hard, because I didn’t quite know how to process my feelings. On one hand, I don’t miss her. At least not in the traditional sense. I don’t miss the memories we made together, or the way she would take me shopping to buy nice dresses, or the food she would cook just for me, or the way she would brush my hair, because I never got to experience any of these things. On the other hand, I miss her terribly. I truly wish we could’ve had a relationship or experience any of these things, because I know I would’ve loved her. I just wish I got the chance to.
After finding that box filled with powerful objects from the past, I was emotionally exhausted. I packed it back up and put it away wistfully, wishing I could change the past, or at least go back and relive it. I went back into the farthest corner of my closet, where the dustiest, oldest things were. I found a light up hoola-hoop, an old volleyball, a few of my very first halloween costumes, and a big blue tub, neatly sealed away with a thick layer of dust resting on it. I couldn’t lift it out, so I called my mom into my room to help me. We hoisted it out of my closet, dusted it off, pried off the lid, and found all of my old toys. Instantly, I got emotional. I felt strangely guilty for cramming them into a tub and shoving them into the very back of my closet. We unpacked every toy, one by one, and my mom told me all about each one. In a few minutes, my bed was covered with my forgotten toys. As I sat, staring at them, I found myself holding back tears. “What are we going to do with them?,” I asked. I didn’t want to put them back into the tub to be abandoned for another decade, but I knew I couldn’t play with them anymore. It sounds incredibly silly, I recognize that, but I just feel sorry for them. I know they aren’t real, but it hurts to think about how these toys, which I once loved so much, ended up shoved in a tub which went unopened for so long. How could I just stop caring about them like that? Looking at my stuffed penguin my grandma bought for me, my little house which I used to play with for hours on end, my plush Ernie toy from Sesame Street, and even some of my mom’s old dolls, I just felt a huge weight pushing down on me. What if no one ever plays with them again? My mom suggested I donate them, which I know is the right thing to do, but I just can’t bear to part with them. What if no one ever buys them, and they sit on a Goodwill shelf, unwanted, for the rest of their lives? What if they are purchased, but the kid who gets them doesn’t care about them like I did? Again, I know they aren’t real and don’t have feelings, but I am, and I do, and I can’t help how certain things make me feel. So, donating them was a no-go. Then, my mom suggested I just save them for my kids, like she saved her dolls for me. That won’t work either though, because I just can’t imagine kids that far in the future will want anything to do with my toys. I mean, even now, kids prefer to watch youtube videos or play games on their parent’s phones. Imagine how it will be when I have kids. And who could really blame them? Sure, I’m past the age of playing with toys, but if I were my kid 20 years from now, I would chose to watch some fun song on youtube or watch my favorite cartoon any day of the week over playing with my mom’s weird old toys. So, I packed my toys back in the tub. Trust me, I wasn’t happy about it, but I’m just not ready to make a decision about this today. It hurts me too much to think that that part of my life is over, and that no one will ever love those old toys again.
With my room messier than ever, I finished my day of “cleaning.” I got almost nothing done, other than a lot of thinking. While I was cleaning out my closet, I got to see a lot of forgotten artifacts from my past. More than anything, I want to go back in time. I want to write in my princess diary about my first day of school, and how I got to be the very first line leader for the year. I want to spend the day with the people that I’ve lost. I want to play with every single one of my toys with my parents, and have a good time. I want to be happy like I was back then. The thing is though, you can’t spend your whole life looking back. If you do that, you’ll never make any new fun memories to look back on in a few years. And even though today I long for a simpler time when I was younger, I know that 10 years from now, I’ll look back on my life now and miss it. I’ll miss living at home with my family, I’ll miss my first high school dance, my friends, and I’ll wish my life was as simple as it is now. Life goes on, and it’s fun to look back every once in a while and clean out your closet physically or metaphorically, but it can also hurt to think about how fast everything goes, and how much you lose along the way.
June 29, 2019