Letting Go

Image from Bekins

Waking up to the most terrifying storm of my life, seemed surreal. I was six. In an unfinished basement with my mother, father, and sister on a cold floor. My dad asked if I was okay. Was I? Shadows danced with light across the window and the siren beckoned her continuous wail. The room was nearly empty at the time. Stilts and slab. I recall seeing a few boxes at the time…

Five times. I have driven five times between my studio apartment to a room that I’ve all but forgot. It has been two years, but the memory is an etch-a-sketch. The car was piled with boxes. Piles and piles of boxes…

The year is 2020, January 1st. I am in China, Chongqing to be specific. I’m walking past Gate 5 or Wǔ hào mén, one of the things I do recall learning in Mandarin. Walking home, I notice the lights. Florescent blues with tints of orange and yellow, written in a language that I cannot comprehend. It probably says something like “Happy New Year Chongqing, Happy 70th birthday,” I do not know. I left in five days; I was saying goodbye to another home. I only had a few boxes…

This drawn out year, with the summer a remnant of drought. Packages at the door weekly, sometimes each day. A repetition of boxes; a moment of clarity.

It is October 2020, and many of you are wondering “What the HELL is this guy talking about?” To explain these episodes in my life, I’ll have to make the distinction between ‘hoarding’ and ‘collecting.’ Without going in laborious detail, my father was once a collector turned hoarder. Baseball memorabilla and any nickel and dime junk you would fondly remember if you were living in your past, haunting his life. Luckily, he’s an incredibly hard worker, working 60+ hours a week. He earns what he hoards. But his story will always be a part of my own.

This is where I fondly recall ALL those phases of mine. Dinosaurs, army men, Star Wars action figures, Nintendo 64, youth sports trophies, VHS tapes, burning mixtapes on CD, DVDs, comics, blu-rays, books…they all belong in boxes.  I have always been a collector, not a hoarder. I can get rid of these boxes, unlike my father. But have they piled up?

Shelves take the corporeal form of these boxes. Sitting atop a carpeted floor, tucked within chestnut, hovering above empty space: the boxes are full. I have decided to declutter these shelves, starting with the clothes in my closet to the films, records, and books that occupy the area. It has been a process of renewal.

Over the past month and a half, I have been seriously considering the purpose of these boxes. They’ve taught the lessons of growing up in a family that rarely said “No,” they’ve taught the essence of insular materialism, they’ve taught me…to care for others and to prioritize what brings happiness to not only myself, but to those I love. All I had to do was open those cardboard folds, blow away the dust, and see what truly lay in front of my eyes.

This is not a unique experience, and I am fully aware of its privilege. The ability to collect is something that can be profoundly simple and sweet, yet it can become mundane and cyclic. I want to break the latter and place those boxes closer to my heart.

I did this to let go. That storm still brews in my mind in mountains of hoarded gold. A constant desire to fulfill the need to own everything. It will never go away, but it has been quelled. My thirst has been quenched. My father’s scope in full purview. Yet… I am still a collector. I just have fewer boxes.

What are your thoughts?

8 thoughts on “Letting Go

  1. “The ability to collect is something that can be profoundly simple and sweet, yet it can become mundane and cyclic.” Never before were truer words spoken. This hit the nail on the head – for me, at least. When I started collecting VHS tapes as a kid, my collection was small and manageable. I made sure I watched every single new item I got (then I would spend countless hours on my own re-watching them too). There wasn’t one movie I owned that I hadn’t seen. Over the years I’ve started accumulating more and more films at a rapid-fire pace and I admit that, right now, there are at least 50 films on my shelves and in my digital library that I haven’t even touched. I don’t ever want collecting to become mundane and cyclical but I fear I’m already at that point. Time to take a step back and be happy with my collection as it is. This means that my habit of buying and “collecting” has to stop – at least for the next little while. At the beginning of the month, I started actively Christmas shopping and I’m happy to report that in that time, I’ve only purchased – well, preordered – one new item for myself. That’s it. And, frankly, that’s good enough.

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    1. “…that’s good enough.” These are the words I need in my life. Such power to be said. I have over 600 films that I haven’t seen and that is too much, it’s time to step back and realize that I don’t need to own all of these things, they are beginning to own me. I’m happy to have met someone that has given that strength to realize what truly matters, x.

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  2. I love this. Truly. I need to move on some of my films I own. I won’t stop collecting, but I need to sell or donate some of films I feel I have no desire to revisit. The disire to own, or for me with regards to film, the desire to acquire knowledge is very hard to keep at bay. I also love the labels I buy my blu rays from and want to support them at any given opportunity. It is an art to keep these things in balance. I’ve managed to reduce my physical music purchases to a dozen releases at most per year. Maybe my film buying habits will go the same way in the future. I do feel that music is more abstract and harder to find stuff you truly love as opposed to film. I love lots of songs(thousands) from different artists but there are nowhere near as many albums or an artist’s discography that I love as there films I love. There a probably 10 or less bands/artists that I consider truly my favourites. Films, the list goes on and on. Can’t wait to read what you write next!

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    1. Thank you so much Sam! I couldn’t agree more about music being a little more particular, I have a lot less records. It seems that film is more digestible or at least it’s more alluring to buy them just based on the labels we love and the releases we can’t seem to get enough of. Cheers, my friend!

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  3. I’m generally more selective when it comes to purchasing something in the first place. I think is this something I will enjoy revisiting time and time again. Sometimes the answer is clear cut sometimes uncertain and when its the latter I usually decline to purchase not always but usually. With that said my collection has slowly but steadily grown and my time is spread more thin, so I don’t get to revisit as much as I’d like but I still like having the option, but it is indeed a weight and there is a lot of freedom to be gained not being weighed down by stuff.

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    1. I am certainly getting more selective now with my purchases, I use to just get something that I might find interesting and would want to watch. It is incredibly hard to revisit films, that is something that I have noticed more and more with me over time. I would like to change that if I could. Thanks for commenting Rob, it is good to see you here!

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  4. I really enjoyed reading this. It reminded me of the piece I sent you about pictures in the early summer. It’s also really interesting to hear about your dad’s collecting/hoarding of baseball memorabilia after knowing about his own history with the sport. I love your connection to different times in your life throughout the paper. When you feel comfortable, I would love to read about what in conjunction with the processing helped you come to a place of being “quenched”. Very well written and glad to know you, sir.

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    1. Thanks so much for reading! Sorry if I can’t tell by your username, but who are you? Haha. My father is a big part of my life, and it is hard to talk about it in a short length. But there are a lot of themes in my life that have come from his life. Thanks for the kind words and I shall elaborate one day on how I’ve been “quenched,” promise!

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