As part of my recent de-stuffication, I tackled my desk upstairs. I took the ancient desktop computer (ancient in computer years, of course) and its various components and added it to the growing Goodwill pile in the corner of the living room. Then I started going through the desk drawers. They were full of notebooks. Pretty much my whole college note-taking career was in those drawers.

I can't say for sure why I've been holding on to them, other than, you know, the fact that I am a keeper (sounds nicer than "hoarder," doesn't it?). Maybe I thought the notes would be useful to me someday, or maybe I was saving them for the still-unused paper in the back (only a couple of classes used up a whole single-subject college ruled notebook, so maybe they should be advertised as 1.5 subject notebooks). By now, I have abandoned any pretense that the information within, diligently and neatly recorded by a past me, will ever be looked at again. But I did feel like the blank paper was still good, and I hate waste. I tried ripping out the used stuff, but I only ended up covered in spiral notebook confetti, and so much ripping pretty much ruined the integrity of the binding. I couldn't come up with a good way to preserve all that paper that didn't take much more time than the whole project was worth, so I ended up chucking the notebooks into the recycle bin. Recycling is like throwing away that you don't have to feel bad about.

Before I did so, I flipped through each one to find any interesting time capsules. I remember when I was little, my brother showed me a bunch of his college notes, because they were peppered with goofy pictures and doodles. Like many things my big brothers did, this made a profound impression on me. Gosh, my brother and his pictures of small people with hilariously large heads was just so cool. I wish I could be cool like that. I ended up drawing different kinds of things, like regular-sized dudes with ducks on their heads. It makes me wonder whether I truly am the kind of person who illustrates her notes with irrelevant and irreverent doodles. Am I cool like that or just a copycat?

It's clear that I don't have any real problems if this is the kind of nonsense that I think about.

Anyway, my little girl self would think my college self was just so cool, because I found lots of drawings and doodles and just random snippets of text. I kept some of those pages, because they were funny (well, to me). Even when I purge, I end up keeping a bunch of it.

I also found lots of long-form writing. Some of it was for school, like a line-by-line analysis of a poem that I had no recollection of. Other pages were hobby writing, like rough drafts of essays I later posted on the blog. A lot of it was just train-of-thought on paper, written when I was probably supposed to be thinking and writing about whatever the professor was saying. In one notebook that I must've had since high school, I even found a heavily-edited version of my graduation speech.

All of these I ripped out and put into a folder. I didn't read much of it, because so much of what I did read was sort of obnoxious in that way my younger self always is. Whenever I read my old stuff, I wonder what compels me to produce so much, when anyone can see that it is all the petty ramblings of a stupid, stupid person. I wonder when I will learn to just stop writing it down, because there is a 100% chance of future me reading it and cringing to remember my idiotic and impossibly young self.

One paragraph I found talked about being twenty years old, and that just killed me. College doesn't seem like it was all that far back in my past (I graduated eight years ago December), but twenty? Yeah, that was so long ago that I don't think it was even me. Me as I exist sprung forth spontaneously a year or two ago, replacing that other girl. She could be funny sometimes, and she drew a great duck, but man. What an idiot.

And as I say all that, do remember that I still kept all that crap. Just as I never learn not to write my thoughts down, I never learn to throw away recycle the results.

I really did toss quite a bit. So much that the most depressing thing about the exercise was how much I've forgotten. There was a notebook from a class that I don't even remember taking. As I flipped through the notes, a lot of it was vaguely familiar, but I would do very poorly on the exam if it were given today. And some of it was just gone, poof. I must have known it at some point, but I feel now like I've forgotten more than I know. Like the lost youth and the blank pages in the back, the misplaced knowledge seemed like just more wasted potential.

And that is why I can't get rid of anything. Because I write too much, and somehow that voice in my head turns a bunch of blank notebook paper into a symbol of my nearly-over twenties. I should draw more ducks.

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