Off-Ramp commentator Taylor Orci on the things you keep, and shouldn't.
I was cleaning out my closet and came across three Ziploc bags of handwritten notes I passed in junior high. Some of the notes were from friends, some were from crushes. Some were very tiny and on lavender paper addressed to Frog 1 from Frog 2. I do not remember who Frog 2 was.
Hey Taylz. Mind if I call you Taylz? I'm in Algebra eating Pez. I think it's cool you like Dave even thought Cindy went out with him.
Out of habit, I put all of the notes in my "to keep" pile. But then, I wondered what exactly I was holding on to. I opened a note and read it. Whoever wrote it to me was bored in a class she hated. She talked about a boy she liked. She swore a lot. She made an inside joke I forget the meaning of, she used a code name for a boy I have forgotten about. Why was I doing this?
Keeping these notes didn't make me feel good. In fact, they made me feel more anxious than anything, because I hated junior high. In junior high a group of girls tackled me, pulled up my shirt and took a picture of my bra because who knows why — and those were my friends.
I remember being 12, 13... and saving these notes in freezer bags with all the pride of an archivist. Like I would read them when I was grown, and they would have in them some wisdom, some childhood spark of imagination I had since lost, and reading them would help me remember something great.
But the notes weren't great; they were all about buying jeans and saying the word “crap” a lot. I guess I thought time was the thing that transformed a friend lamenting about French fries into the kind of letter a dying Civil War soldier would write to his fiancée with his one good arm.
Dear Taylor, wazzup? How's life? Eat any pie lately? Caught any pie thieves? Just kidding, I was trying to be funny. Or funny-la. That's what I'm gonna say from now on, I'm gonna make it my thing, funny-la. Do you remember Sublime? Bradley Nowell is my God.
I do remember having big thoughts as a kid, thoughts about isolation, death, how many hours Jimi Hendrix practiced guitar when he was my age and if I was missing out on greatness because I didn't really practice anything. It's just that, those weren't the things I wrote about to my friends.
I came across a note full of quotes from the movie "Clueless," the greatest movie ever made:
And I remembered this was the summer my school forced me to go to therapy. I had started cutting myself for a number of reasons, mostly because I didn't really like me very much. All I wanted to do was go to the mall and some swanky new place I'd heard about called Louise's Trattoria with the girl who wrote the “Clueless” note.
So I lied to the therapist and told him I was hurting myself for attention because I hadn't accepted my stepdad as a positive male role model. Do I think that makes sense? No. But sure enough, it got me out of therapy.
But there was nothing so on-the-nose in that note I wrote to that girl, or in anything I wrote to anyone. So I took the three bags of notes, and I threw them away.
At first, I felt like I was betraying my kid self. I imagined little 12-year-old Taylor, confused and upset that what she worked so hard to save never actually became all that important. She probably would call adult me a dumbass, and journal about me all night. But adult me knows that junior high sucked, and I don't need three freezer bags full of kid notes to remind me of that.
After I threw out the notes, I felt lighter. And I'll never have to come up with some lame explanation to my kids why this was so important to me and why they should care about it, too.
I should add I was inspired to clean out my closet because I just helped clean out my grandparents’ house, and tumbling out of every closet were bags and bags of similar things. Not notes passed in junior high, but skeins of synthetic yarn with a quarter of a bright orange sweater attached, commemorative coins you looked at to remember the tenth anniversary of the moon landing. A limited edition jar of cologne inside a ceramic figurine of Betsy Ross. These things were waiting for a day that they had value, but value wasn't something time alone could give those things. So they sat in closets, waiting.