Friday, July 08, 2005

I've been getting my past in order. Literally.

For a few years when I was just starting out in the internet business, I kept printouts of my email correspondence from the various jobs that I held. I printed them out because there were so many witty, funny exchanges with coworkers and friends that I didn't want to lose. As a result, I've moved the heavy burden of paper, equivalent to a few encyclopedia volumes from apartment to apartment and now even across the country. All to do absolutely nothing with it.

I recently began a decluttering project because I have too much stuff in my apartment. This is stuff that I do not use but for some reason think that I need. I started with the top shelf in the closet in my bedroom that is certainly one of the seven wonders of the world for the stupendous balancing feat accomplished by objects that should not be stacked. At the bottom of that pile were the printed emails. I hadn't looked at them for years, and wasn't sure I wanted many of them around anymore. After all, the person that had written them didn't exist anymore. She had changed and was in a different place, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically in a different city. Many of them had been written before I knew that I had clinical depression, and the struggle is evident. Along with the cute, funny exchanges, there are tales of uncertainty, insecurity, unhappiness, anger, and someone who wasn't comfortable in her skin. At the time I was writing it, I was in the moment and oblivious to what I know now. Now that I'm in that future and have some answers, it is frustrating, especially knowing that I would be able to call a truce with myself and shake hands after I was on medication and got therapy. This doesn't include the crash of 2001-2002 where several personal events and a relapse would lead to a wipe out that left me with little choice but to leave Los Angeles and regroup. There was no quick recovery that would enable me to stay. Though it was probably the most difficult time of my life, I am the better for it. Being at rock bottom can be unbelievably freeing and the perspective it brings is invaluable.

Speaking of perspective, I'm not sure I want an anchor to that past. I decided to shelve that decision for now, and just work on organizing them. I knew that I could get rid of a lot by putting them in chronological order. That helped me eliminate duplicates and all the computer tags at the bottom that could go for a page or two. Same with forwards, replies, and just plain email that I had no use for. When so many companies fall beneath your feet and jobs come to an end, many times it was a frantic print out during my last week there.

As I sifted through them, I saw that there were many people that I mentioned that I don't remember. For example, there was a woman named Jacqueline whom I didn't like and sent a polite email asking my friends to exclude me from outings where she was coming along. Though I've tried as hard as I can to remember her, I have no idea who she is and why I didn't like her. Jacqueline, if you are out there, can you be a dear and fill me in on who you are and why I thought you were an obnoxious cunt? I would be most grateful.

There were also people whom I can't remember that I corresponded with on a regular basis. I'm guessing these were people that I only met through email, that were either work or industry contacts. I only kept the non-work related email, and if I didn't remember the person, away it went. I've managed to get rid of about half the printouts so far, and it feels wonderful, like I'm physically shedding some emotional baggage.

However, it was inevitable that I would stir up frustration with my several years younger self. Reading about futile career explorations, guys I dated, networking that never panned, people I should have cut ties with long before I did, and worries about things that just didn't seem worthy of a furrowed brow.

I can't help wondering if any of this knowledge helps me with the decisions that I make now. Knowing what I know. Sure, I have more wisdom and experience, but just like then, I'm in uncharted territory. I've never been where I am now, and before me is the unknown. My choices will determine where I end up.

The one good thing in going through that past is knowing that it is indeed, the past. And seeing it so neatly arranged and compartmentalized puts into perspective one, how important decisions can be, and two, that things really aren't that big a deal unless I make them one. Nothing is do or die, and that perhaps I should roll the dice again and see what happens. Not carelessly, or relying on fate, but for once to give myself some fucking credit to be able to carry things through when the answers aren't clear cut.

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