The last time I went home to my parents house in Bergen, I had to clean out all the stuff in my old room. They are going to sell the house and move to an apartment. And you can say I had a close encounter with my former self.
Ah, the stuff we accumulate! I've lived in Oslo for years, and honestly didn't think I had a lot of stuff left in my old room. Boy was I wrong.
I spent hours sorting through magazines, books, photos, clothes....It's amazing how much stuff was tucked away in the cupboard. I tried to be ruthless and unsentimental. Because I don't want to fill up my apartment in Oslo with my old stuff. Plus, there was no way I'd fit a lot of stuff in my suitcase to bring back.
So I filled about eight small trash bags + two bags with paper to be recycled. And then gave away LOADS to the Salvation army. Then I came across my my old journals. I didn't realize I had so many! There must have been about 20 or so. (Mostly written between the age of 15-25)
Hidden away very cleverly in a secret room in at the bottom of my closet! Anyway. I'd managed to be ruthless and unsentimental with my other stuff while cleaning out the cupboards. But what do you do when you encounter a younger version of yourself? Do you keep the old journals or throw them away? I think there are two kinds of people. The people who keep them forever, and the people who don't see much value in them and throw them away.
When I re-read my old journals...I laugh, I cringe (because what I write about is so banal or just incredibly pathetic) But then I also feel sad, because I was such an insecure guy. I look at this picture (I was 19 years old, visiting my older sister who lived in New York at the time) and I read my journal from that very time, and between the lines are all these questions like who am I, what am I going to do with my life? Who are my friends? I wish I was more popular, Am I really gay? And if so, does that actually mean I'll end up with a guy? (That thought seemed really scary) Why can't I just be normal? (Whatever that means!)
Just about all my other journals are filled with the same thoughts and questions. I feel so sorry for my younger self. But then again, maybe everyone needs to go through that rough, insecure phase. Maybe there's no avoiding it.
I destroyed them
I just kept a few. Why? Because it felt incredibly liberating! Like that part of my life doesn't hold me back in any way any longer. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulder. The journals are no longer physically taking up space somewhere. They're gone.
I don't have a desire to re-read again and again how lousy I thought my life was. I already know the contents of the journals. I threw them away because that guy, the guy who wrote them doesn't exist anymore. He's moved on. And he's much happier! I know that he did exist though, and the journals served their function well: I think writing about my life helped me in some way at the time.
If only I'd known
Thank you old journals, because you really made me realize how much I love my life as it is now. Actually, I've never been happier, I've never felt more at home in my skin. I wish I'd known when I was an insecure teen: Things are going to be OK.
Makes me think of the artist Mark Morrisroe. Years ago, in one of his photo books, I came across this poignant text. It was so sad and beautiful that I kept a copy of the page.
It's so sad that young people often don't know how great life is and how incredibly beautiful they are.