Unpacking the Past

It’s generally considered as good advice to not dwell in the past. I agree. But sometimes, we’re quite literally forced to have a look into the past, much like myself the last few days. And what a trip it’s proving to be!

We’re busy clearing out our storage facility. Many things that we just chucked into boxes when we moved out of our last house were not examined at the time. There just wasn’t time. Now, we need to clear out everything!

It’s a process, but so far I’ve gone through some bags of clothing (Oh yes, there are some items I’m not going to fit into again. Ever. And for some of those items, I’m grateful for it too!), found all my diaries, some as far back as 1987…, jewellery (if some of the items could be called that), birthday and Christmas cards, invitations, and a few shoeboxes full of letters. From that time before email and the Internet. Remember it?

Hmm, so … I’ve realised a few things.

I’m OK with not fitting into those items of clothing again. And not only because they date from the late 80s and early 90s. I’m actually quite happy with the way I look now, and my size. I’ve worked hard to get here!

I also used to take my friendships seriously. And you know what, that hasn’t changed. My friends are still very important to me! Excellent.

I was quite creative, particularly in the sense that I spent a lot of time just writing. Without boundaries, just pages and pages of text and stories and poems and songs and impressions. Some of it’s so embarrassing I have to burn it (really), but some of it is quite good (not burning). So, in this regard I’m glad I’ve decided to make writing a priority again.

And then the letters. Oh. My. Hat! Too funny! There were so many pen pals! There are even a few letters from a guy in Ghana (I was still in high school and recall seeing his address in the local newspaper. It seemed like a good idea at the time, OK?) who wanted to befriend people [read: get a wife, I was so naive!] in South Africa, and by the third letter he had asked for my shoe size so that he could send me some local, hand-made sandals. I stopped corresponding. Somehow I finally got the message, the real message! And the love letters I got! Wha ha ha! I have laughed so much this week. For the sake of the writers, I am burning them too though. Thigh-slappers they are. But you know what? Gushy and cringe-worthy as some of them are, they were sincere at the time. And somewhere along the line I became very jaded. Seriously? When did I have so many fans? Wake-up call, Miss Pretzel! Stop being so hard on yourself, already…!

The journey continues. Not entirely the likes of Dr Livingstone or Phineas Fogg, but it’s certainly jogging my memory. There’s the ivory recorder I don’t know what to do with. Yes, I played an instrument or two in my time. The old tapes with some good music on them; some were gifts and others were painstakingly recorded from the radio hit shows. The bric a brac from my first jaunt in London; old security entrance tags, movie stubs, my flight ticket from before the existence of e-tickets. Remember those? Old keys. Calligraphy pens and ink. Ornaments. List goes on.

And there’s a lot more to pick up before the storage space is empty.

Most of it will leave my house eventually, as I wade through it all. The past is a great mirror it seems, but on reflection I think I much more prefer the present. In the present I have the opportunity to fix my mistakes and grasp new opportunities. And I am looking forward to the future much more than I used to, knowing that I am slowly but surely moving in the right direction and person.

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