Friday, May 14, 2010

Relics of a Me I'm Not.

Hey, Sounds. Long time no post.

So I'm cleaning my room right now (a laborious, unending process that will occupy me all summer, I'm sure) and I have to say, it's a bizarrely nostalgic experience. Unproductively so.

One of the downsides of an obsessive personality is that you're convinced, in the midst of your obsession, that nothing will ever change. That whatever you love right now will be the thing you love forever, just as passionately. And unfortunately that's just not the case. Do I still love Harry Potter? Hell yes I do. I always will. But I wasted a fortune on decorative pins at conventions, and they stayed on my purse until the fasteners broke. And now I have a bunch of broken pins that say things like "You had me at drink this" and "FREE STAN SHUNPIKE." They're adorable, I guess, but, like... what do I do with them?

Or, another example. Several years ago, I bought "Martial Arts for Dummies." I was big into anime at the time, and writing fanfic, and I thought it would be a good research tool. (In my defense, this was in the days before wikipedia.) I can always donate it, of course, or sell it on amazon or to the half-price bookstore in town, but that goes against my nature. I'm a packrat at heart, first of all, so any plan that ever requires me to actually get rid of something is always going to make me balk, but it's more than that. As if by getting rid of this stupid book I don't need and will never read again, I'm betraying my past self. Calling take-backs or something.

It's highly irrational. But so are my spending habits. I mean, seriously. I have a DESK GONG. A little gong, about the circumference of a silver dollar, with a twig-sized metal rod as a mallet. Why? Well, I bought it in my senior year of high school-- picked it up at Borders, from those shelves of Hey Buy One Last Thing Before You Check Out! chain bookstores set up on line before the register. I was directing a short play for drama class at the time* and also competing in Duo Interpretation on the Speech and Debate team with my friend Will. Will's a fantastic actor, and we both loved "Sure Thing" by David Ives: another student had put it on for THEIR senior-directed play a few years previously, and so we decided to use it as our first Duo piece, in Junior year. We were never happy with our interpretation-- it was too static-- and while we loved our Senior piece, a cutting of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, we never quite got over our love of "Sure Thing."

Being the youtube enthusiast that I am (well, was) and aspiring director that I'm still not quite comfortable being, I had a brilliant idea: we'd revisit "Sure Thing" over the summer, with me behind the camera and him appearing again as Bill. Some other friend of ours would play Betty. I'm still proud of the idea; if you're unfamiliar with "Sure Thing," the basic premise is that a guy and a girl try and work their way through a stereotypical romcom meet-cute. The twist is that every time one of them does something wrong, a bell rings and the scene starts over-- they get a second chance to make a first impression. In my hypothetical film version, every time the bell rang we'd cut to a new location-- some other restaurant, with Bill and Betty in different clothes. A sequence of alternate realities.** And that's where the mini-gong comes in. I was going to use it instead of the typical concierge bell, with a white-gloved hand doing the ringing. A cut-away between each scene, instead of just the sound effect.

All of which is interesting and kind of cool, except for the part where the film never got made. It probably will never get made. And yet the desk gong remains, gathering dust on my shelf next to the anthropomorphic garlic clove plushie Amanda got me when she went to California.

I mean, honestly. I have a lava lamp, for fuck's sake. What does one do with a lava lamp? Why are they sold? What purpose do they serve? But I was on the cusp of teenagerhood and I thought they were the coolest thing, I put it on my Hanukkah list, and that was that. Another useless thing to add to my collection.

I have a corkboard covered with post-cards from friends I've long since lost touch with; a desk drawer filled to the brim of all of my AP US History notes from sophomore year, because I was convinced I'd grow up to be a high school history teacher, and I didn't want to forget how Mr. Hand had done it; a book of Celtic runes I bought in England, just because it was a book of runes from England; an action figure of myself.

I feel like my room would be a sociologist's dream-- or perhaps their worst nightmare. And it all boils down, I think, to the tension between what's important and what matters. These things all mattered to me once--does that make them important? Should things that were once important to you always matter, at least in some small way? They set me on the path, after all. I wouldn't-- couldn't-- be now-me if I hadn't been then-me first.

I'm sure I could dig up a more useful and fitting quotation if I tried, but all I can think about is a rather throwaway line from King Lear. Lear gets pissed off at Cordelia for snubbing him, he banishes her, and Kent speaks up-- saying what an injustice it is, etc etc. He gets chastised for failing to observe proper court decorum and speaking out of turn, to which he bursts out "Anger hath a privilege!"***

Does the past have a privilege?

* a hilarious little one-act called Jimmy the Antichrist, the script of which is also around here somewhere, cluttering up my life.
** In the interest of not repeating myself, I've relegated this to the footnotes: GOD I still love that concept. Maybe some day...
*** What a great line. Oh, Shakespeare, the things you do to me.


  1. I really like your thoughts.
    And I desperately want to clean your room.
    And I'm glad I know the story behind the desk gong now.
    And I can't believe you didn't mention the alien.

    I think that certain things-- like the martial arts book-- can be let go, because you'll never need them again, and they don't have much sentimental value. Those are the kinds of things that don't need to be kept, because they've become facets of you. You don't need to store the past in boxes or, to speak your language, in piles, to treasure it; it's already safe in who you are.

    Keep the pins, though. They're more special and important and who knows? might be worth something someday. Or your kids could want them, to be like, "MY MOM WAS COOL AND NOW SO AM I." Don't you want your kids to be popular?

  2. I have the same exact problem. Eventually I'll to return my parents' house and collect everything, but until then I'm ignoring the problem.