Student Experience Blog

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No Monsters, Only Memories

"We're cleaning out all the closets on Friday," my father proclaimed one evening last week. And when he said all the closets, he was including mine, and there was no way I was getting out of it. Talking my father out of anything when he gets an idea in his head is nigh impossible, and I wasn't about to attempt to do so now. I wasn't looking forward to the task of sifting through whatever lurked inside a storage space I hadn't thoroughly cleaned in years, especially since I knew I had work later on in the day...but as it turns out, father really does know best.

Going into the task of cleaning my closet, I had already mentally separated my possessions into three neat categories: things that needed to be kept, things I needed to throw out or donate, and things that I wanted to keep but knew Dad would probably want me to get rid of ASAP. Luckily, many of those categorizations would have been obvious even to people that didn't know me. I mean, why would I keep an old Xbox that doesn't even work anymore? When will I ever reread K.A. Applegate's Animorphs series ever again? Why would I say goodbye to my old high school yearbooks and all the memories that came with them? Finding things for those first two categories was too easy--it was that third category that was the most difficult, but also the most gratifying.

For instance, over the years I had accumulated a giant stack of loose papers underneath the old chess set I hadn't dug out in years. While some of them were lucky enough to be kept in a binder or a folder of some sort, the majority of them were unsorted and generally messy. Whenever I would put anything new in that stack, I did so with the knowledge that I was saving them for...something, but for what was never apparently clear. I just knew I wanted to keep them for whatever reason, and they might come in handy again someday far in the future, perhaps if I ever needed to wax nostalgic about life and its many intricacies. I fully expected as I was cleaning that all of them would get trashed and the matter would be done, but I wanted to investigate them first. This became the best decision of my week, because I found huge collections of stuff that I really DID want to keep, including three full years of photography portfolios I believed to be lost to the ether and old copies of choral music I swiped during my time in high school.

Naturally, upon finding all these old documents I became sidetracked from my deep cleaning. As I looked at the photos I had taken and saw all the improvements I had made over the years, and as I gleefully reread the script of a play I had participated in my sophomore year in high school (my parts still highlighted for convenience), and as I reread some of my best academic work from years of English class, I was assaulted by old happy memories, and of all the hard work I had put into these activities. I couldn't throw these away. No way.

I couldn't throw away any new memories, either. I couldn't get rid of my Nerf gun--another round of Humans vs. Zombies beckoned in the fall on campus, and I couldn't be defenseless. I wouldn't destroy my cardboard/duct tape shields that a good friend of mine helped me craft in the late hours of a Friday night in Hayman Hall. Too many memories to just throw out, no matter what Dad may think.

Luckily, all the stuff in those first two categories created a LOT of new room for me to store these things. I got away with keep all those papers by stuffing them in a bunch of binders (now sorted, thankfully), and those toys fit nicely in the corner that used to hold the old video game controllers I never used anymore. In the end, my closet really was a lot cleaner, and somehow it seemed tamer. Maybe when people say their closets have monsters, they're really thinking of the army of memories their closets contain.

So, have you cleaned your closet lately?

-Clayton Gefre