I spent some time over this last weekend clearing out a bunch of stuff from the parental abode. Mum has decided she wants to rent out my room, so to make this possible I have to clear out the debris from the years I was living there (and a spot of accumulated debris from previous years too, of course!).
The last years I lived there were while doing my Masters degree, in 2004 and 2005. At that time I was also sort-of living with my then-boyfriend. I say 'sort-of' because he was actually living in the self-contained flat downstairs, rather than in the same house, but the proximity was enough that remnants from this time keep popping up - books he didn't want to take with him when he moved somehow found themselves onto my bookshelves, notes he's written me that I used as bookmarks at the time are left in books that are now being re-read, and a whole bunch of love letters and notes that had been neatly filed away.
I went through it all, and what I stopped to read made me simultaneously laugh and cringe,both at the overblown prose, and the fact that so many of the notes/letters he wrote me were apologies for having hurt my feelings. Hmmm, there's something there methinks! If only we'd spent less time writing apologetic notes and more time realising that this relationship simply wasn't right (something I did know, deep down, but just tried to ignore, and to re-shape myself to fit into what I needed to be to make it work), then I wouldn't be left wondering why I wasted all those years with him!
Though, as Clinton points out, you never know what might have happened if things have been different - I guess that's his version of my 'Everything happens for a reason.' And in those years, I was also reminded by other paperwork and photographs, I also managed to do some cool stuff. I got two degrees - my BA and my Masters, I had a solo art exhibition, and I travelled a little with my dear friend Janet - hitching around Tassie, going to the Circus Festival, and going on hikes together. So, it wasn't really a complete waste of time, and I did achieve things, albeit on my own.
It wasn't just times with my ex I trawled through. I found letters from the late 90's, from my trip to Europe and from the time I lived at Condobolin for a few months. I found cards and kind words, and a handful of uni assignments too! I went through my ten photo albums covering the years from 1999 to 2004, and was brought to tears several times seeing photos of my Dad and I, together and smiling. I couldn't bring myself to recycle any of the cards he'd written me, no matter how trite. Seeing his distinctive block capitals handwriting is like seeing part of him inscribed on the world, and I am not yet ready to let that go.
I did throw a bunch of stuff out, some stuff went to charity, and a lot more went into the recycling bin, including the letters and notes from the aforementioned ex. I briefly wondered if I should send them to him so he could decide what to do with his words, but I think they are so of the past that it's right to get rid of them. I have packed up the photo albums and the letters I wanted to keep for storage, and there's a handful of things I brought back to Canberra, mostly books. Though it was an emotional sort of journey into my past, it feels cathartic to have cleaned out this long-neglected corner of Mum's house, and I'm glad to have done it.