Sunday, March 1, 2015

Collecting Things

So this sorting and packing project is requiring a lot more time and energy than I anticipated. It's easy to assess, say, your clothing. If you haven't worn it in a year or more, then it's time to send it to Goodwill. But the bits and pieces of your past that hold sentimental meaning.....well they are a bit more difficult. Some items tell the history of Heather. Some items share about a specific aspect of my personality. Some things are simply a record of a past accomplishment. 

Two of many Wolf items
But today I'm pondering the American--at least I think it's an American inclination--need, desire, or practice of collecting certain things. For example, as a young teen I felt a strong fascination and pull to the wolf as an animal. I began collecting wolf items--from plates to shirts to figurines and art and coffee mugs. Why the wolf? I had an affinity for them because while they do mate for life, there is also the occasional lone wolf that never aligns themself to a pack. They are a loyal creature and beautiful beyond description. I've been lucky enough to just see one in the wild in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan when I was about 12 years old. He was a sight!

Some Madonna stuff




Later in my teens, I became obsessed with Madonna. I loved her from the very beginning--from Borderline and Lucky Star. I loved her funky sense of style and her no-apologies attitude. I spent hours in my room making up dances to her songs (I remember some moves to White Heat to today!). I bought every magazine cover with her face on it and to this day I arrive to the music store to purchase her album (okay, now I visit iTunes!) on the day it becomes available. Anyone that knew me in high school or college associates me with Madonna. From time to time you'll see a post on my Facebook wall letting me know of some Madonna news. 

There are other less specific things I "collect"....like coloring books (some of my Precious Moments books are over 15 years old), crayons, stuff with Chickadees on it (my favorite bird), and of course books. 

I just packed the fifth bin of my "stuff" for container shipment. I have a lot yet to pack, despite weeding things at every turn. I guess that Library degree and the weeding skills that accompanied it are coming in mighty handy. But what to do with these collections of things? And why do we collect things to begin with? Psychology Today has an webpage repository to discuss it! In recent years there's been the whole hoarding phenomena brought to light---with full blown TV shows and now it's considered a disorder (Hoarding Disorder!). As I said previously, I'm not a hoarder or a pack rat; however, I have carried certain things with me throughout my life. At this juncture the evaluation process is more hefty. More deliberate. 

After a little online research--as a librarian that's pretty much a requirement--I liked what The Guardian has to say about why we collect. There can be different reasons for different people and ages, of course, but the following seemed to define my reasons:

"..another is that collecting is motivated by existential anxieties – the collection, an extension of our identity, lives on, even though we do not."

For me it is about my identity and what I feel I connect to and what represents some part of me. However, I am certainly NOT Madonna nor do I have dreams of being famous (published, but not famous). Perhaps more interestingly, at the end of that Guardian article is the comment that humans have only been collecting things for the last 12,000 years when they gave up their nomadic lifestyles and settled in one location. While I will not become a nomadic herder in Mongolia, it has been their traditional way of life for centuries and 45% of the population yet lives that way. But in a way, I am becoming a type of nomad. I am packing up and moving to Asia for an entirely new life and the adventure that accompanies it. So what, you may ask, makes the cut?

Well, the wolf stuff will journey the Pacific because myself, Zorig, and Enji all LOVE the wolf. This is one of those "signs" that I wrote about previously. In fact, Enji tells me there is a superstition related to wolves in Mongolia--if you see a wolf, you'll get lucky three years. I LOVE this. So much better than all the bad luck that seems to accompany OUR superstitions (ladders, black cats, etc). So my wolf items will find a new home in Mongolia. 

My Chickadee mug.
As for Madonna, I just don't know. Perhaps a few items will go...but the Sex book, while it was a scandal when it came out....seems silly to own in the here and now. (But I will read through it tonight before discarding it!) The coloring books go! I will be hosting afterschool activities at ASU and coloring is such a peaceful and relaxing thing to do. I also purchased three new boxes of Crayola crayons.....because YES, I am a crayon snob! My chickadees will go--a mug, a small picture. They make me smile....and remind me of a dear friend with whom I share a love of birds. 

So I guess I'll end with this....what do you collect? Why do you collect it? And what will your collection matter in long run? Would you take it halfway around the world with you?


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