“I witness to the times that brought them in”

Time is weird.

Yesterday was 10 years to the day since I graduated college. I’ve lived in Staunton for almost nine years now, and I’ve worked for the ASC almost seven of those years. I’ve been in this apartment for almost five years.

And at the end of this week, that will be different. I’m upending my life a bit — an instinct it seems like an awful lot of people are feeling this season. I have so many friends who seem to be using this summer to restructure their existence — moving, changing jobs, going back to school. It’s something in the stars or in the air — people are feeling a need to… to evolve.

Evolution means gaining something, but it almost always means losing something, too.

I’m starting to think part of maturity is realizing that… that’s okay.

While preparing for this move, I’ve cleared out all kinds of stuff. I’ve trimmed down my book collection by maybe an eighth — and I still have about eighteen boxes full to put into storage for the next few months. I took one box full of romance novels to the local nursing home and a sack full of blankets to the SPCA. I’ve sent off clothes to online consignment shops and unloaded a lot of costumes on the MLitt/MFA program. I finally threw away two rings given to me by The Ex, that I’ve for some reason kept in a drawer for seven years. I tossed some hair ornaments I’ve inexplicably been holding on to since college; some miscellaneous decor I’ve had since high school. I cleared out pounds of makeup that I haven’t worn in years and had to admit I never would again.

I am, as the above might suggest, a bit of a packrat. It’s the nostalgia, really. I’m a sentimental and foolish creature, and it shows in the little things I stow away.

I’m a ticket hoarder, for example — so I went through and kept the stubs for Rogue One, Return of the King, and The Muppets, because those, for various reasons, are important to me. I tossed the ones I couldn’t remember anything about. I kept tickets not just for a bunch of ASC shows, including the very first I ever saw in the Blackfriars Playhouse (pictured below), but for various musicals I’ve seen on Broadway and in London. I finally tossed some old mixtapes (mostly because I no longer have anything to play them on), but I kept notes and Valentines from high school friends. I have an incredibly large stack of cards, letters, and secret messages accumulated over the decades.

The whole process leads to quite a bit of navel-gazing. Who am I, and who have I been? I started to type a pontificating paragraph about “not being the person I was ten years ago, or even two years ago” — but I actually don’t think that’s true. I’m the same person in the ways that matter — but I am, dare I say it, a bit wiser? I’ve learned a lot — some of it for good reasons, as I’ve written a graduate thesis, held my first adult job, and lived on my own; some of it for less-fun reasons, as I’ve been hurt, gotten through a lot of heartbreak, and discovered that I apparently have an inherent tendency to give my heart to people who are less-than-deserving of it. I’ve discovered, as I think we all do, that the hangover you have at 31 is not the same as the hangover you had at 21 — but as How I Met Your Mother taught us, no matter how many times you learn that lesson and make a vow never to do that to yourself again… you still will, on occasion.

There’s the realization that, though so much has changed — nearly a third of my life, since I moved here, so many experiences, so many lessons — I still feel like something of an impostor adult. I may have had an excellent job, achieved many things, lived on my own, bought a car — but I know people my own age who have literally grown new humans. Some of them have grown two or three of them! Some of them have built families. Some of them are making a lot more money than me. Some have been braver than me. And yet — I sort of get the feeling that everyone secretly has no idea what’s going on, and suspects that no one else does either.

I’ve also realized that there are some people that I’m not in frequent touch with any more, who I wish I was — and there are people I’m definitely super glad aren’t in my life anymore. (If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be this: Life is too short for toxic friendships & relationships). There are a lot of folk who I bet I would’ve fallen out of touch with if it weren’t for the magic of the internet. And there are folk I’ve fallen out of touch with and then found again. My world is so rich with friends, even though most of them are somewhat distant from me. Hell, some I’ve never met in real life — and that’s something that hasn’t changed in the past ten years. I’m a child of the first generation to grow up online; I’ve always had friends, good and close friends, on the other side of a screen. But whether they’re internet-only friends, people I’ve loved since childhood, or newly-treasured connections made in the past year, it’s so magnificent to be able to celebrate their successes and their joys. And the support I’ve received as I enter this new phrase of my life has been absolutely incredible.

It’s good to clear out every once in a while — to figure out what you’re holding onto for no good reason. It makes the things worth keeping sparkle so much more.

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