As a teenager, I always kept a blank VHS tape in my VCR ready to record anything at any given time. I was always ready at a moment’s notice to hit record and preserve a memory. I’ve always wondered why I felt compelled to do that. I’ve sometimes thought that maybe it was a reaction from my parent’s divorce. I watched something fall apart overnight and then no one would talk about it. So, it just entered and left my world with very little evidence of having ever existed.
This behavior of mine has lasted me throughout my entire life. I’ve gotten better, but I’ve always felt the need to be an archivist. I just needed to be in possession of anything that may be in danger of being lost or forgotten. As a teenager, I’d tape every episode of WWF Raw for the entire year. I’d have every match and story-line at my fingertips so that I could relive it whenever I wanted because back in 1998, there was no Peacock or YouTube. If I didn’t have it, I’d have to hope someone else did that I could trade with, but most likely I’d never see it again.
My need to archive things led to me being a bit of a hoarder, something I broke free from in my early 20’s. Now, I’m more of a minimalist, but I’ll still catch myself feeling compelled to collect or save, the most random things. Book, toys, comics, movies that won’t ever be released on physical media, physical media itself, family history, commercials… you name it, I’ll have a story about a time when I felt like the entire world relied on me to preserve this data for some unknown reason. If you tell me something is super rare or hard to find, I’ll exhaust all options like I don’t trust it in the hands of anyone else. It’s a strange and arguably unhealthy habit.
But as I mentioned, I have gotten better. Even recently, I’ve become more self aware when my thinking travels down a road such as these and I’m able to stop it and rationalize it. As a middle-aged adult with no kids, I can easily convince myself that saving something or archiving it is absolutely idiotic because it’s not like I have anyone to pass it down to anyway.
Another way I’ve learned to process such compulsions is to write them out. Sometimes getting them out of my head (so they aren’t reliant on my memory) and onto something more tangible (like paper or a blog) makes me feel released from my responsibility to be the keeper of all things.
I first noticed this sort of relief late one night around ten years ago. I was having trouble sleeping when realized that my memories of working at Blockbuster were beginning to fade. So, I got out of bed and went into the living room where I began to write. Three hours later, I’d expunged all my memories into one long text file and the relief I felt was tremendous. I had taken the time to unburden my mind along with process some of those feelings regarding the memories. After that, I felt free and no longer felt responsibility for preserving these memories.
In the following years, I’d occasionally take a deep dive into a relationship, situation, or random memory to express. Sometimes these made fun stories, other times they were just a way for me to process or release them. Recently, I’ve been creating a series of posts called, “Oh, I Had That” over at Middle Aged Fat Kids. My motivation behind these posts is to share some fun objects I owned as a kid, but also to say goodbye to the memories. It’s a way for me to acknowledge the role they played in my life and to free up space for new things to come along. It also makes for a fun conversation piece when someone chimes in that they used to own that too.
It’s obvious I’m the type of person who struggles to say good-bye to things, at least things that seem like they may fade. The internet has helped me some since almost everything is preserved online, but I also believe my own changing views on things has also helped. Nothing can be preserved in the long run. Everything breaks. I’m a fan of the saying, “Let go or be dragged” and well… it’s something I try to live by.
I have found a way to deal with some of those thoughts, memories, and items from the my past that hopefully entertains while doing so. By writing them out, I get a chance to relive the moments and also say goodbye at the same time. I sometimes wonder what I will do once I run out of nostalgic moments to process.