I did that sometime ago. Not that it made much space in the tiny rooms here that have seen so much of me, my mind change and banalities, wonders transpire these past few years. But tearing up cards, shredding things and papers freed me of my 20s and what I will choose to remember of that uncertain decade. It was the discovery of many past notebooks though that made me smile in varied layers of horror and amusement today.
As a journalist, you develop a habit, and later a taste, for writing down every other word the person you meet for work speaks. As a writer, my training in forming words, beautiful, wholesome, dancing words on paper started much earlier. It started when mother left me with a pen and a volume of lovely photos from Soviet Union, the first book I'm told I looked at, I looked at them all the time. I scribbled over the polar bears in blue ink. On the back of other books, on scraps of napkins, on Post-Its, on lined notebooks when I couldn't keep a straight line, I still almost can't, in pencil along margins, as inscriptions on the second page of books gifted to friends, in the many notebooks I love collecting, I wrote words and made them sentences and turned them into paragraphs. Words, each a perfect word for the time I made them mine to tell my story then. Lovely, therapeutic words.
Like my 20s, my notebooks have sometimes been scattered, rarely tied below a red string and followed me to all the homes I have lived in. Sometime ago, when I did my purging, many notebooks that I had at different times decided I wanted to keep, fell into the bed I was sorting my papers upon. I had got rid of skeletons, after the last major house move, I had developed an instinct for the notebooks I wanted to keep, and those I didn't. Your constructed histories always throw up surprises though.
My notebooks have taken different shapes and grown to varied sizes over the years. The only consistency I follow is in variety. The Moleskines are mostly unused still, their prohibitively expensive pages don't seem to welcome my impulsive scribbles. Like to a song, you have to take to a kind of notebook. The cheap spiral bound ones made in my old school are more familiar, they know I like to doodle too between the words, they know I like to scratch out entire sentences when I don't get them right. There are the cloth bound ones, beautiful pieces that I have managed to convince myself to use. And those handmade paper ones that blot the ink from the fountain pen I write with. Other inconsequential ones slip in once in a while, impulsive buys because the cover looked nice.
In them I have my histories, my poetry, my one liners, phrases that came to me on early mornings in a half awake state that I knew I could place well somewhere, dates and ideas, quotes I liked and quotes I made up, phone numbers, emails, stubs from movie tickets, boarding passes from holidays, pieces of string that must have meant something, petals and chocolate wrappers and much else I no longer remember the significance of.
Like the discovery of a love letter you wrote as a 14-year old to the then love of your life, some of these words make me laugh, though I laugh to mask that momentary longing for the innocence we all once used to have. The poetry in them have footnotes, entries for where and why they were written. In that annoying professor's dull class, in a snow covered park in Chicago, the first time I saw snow, for a joke that is no longer funny, for a friend urging him to move on, I'd only ever be just his friend, while in transit between airports or homes or people, on this day or that month when nothing mattered, when everything mattered.
I couldn't bring myself to throw these notebooks away. Not yet at least. Some were work notes, from stories chased and deadlines met, notes of stories I had forgotten I ever thought of. Some were yellow and in a handwriting I didn't remember I had. One day, perhaps during the next great purge, I will throw them away. I will look at them all again once before. They will make me laugh, even the heartbreak years one day make you laugh. These notebooks, torn, bound, embroidered, painted, drawn upon, these are who I used to be before I turned who I am when creating these words.