| David Gane

Purge the past

After spending the weekend moving Mom out of her house, my wife and I came home and began sorting through our own belongings, figuring out what we could sell, give away, or recycle.

Books were the first to go, then clothing and knicks-knacks. But in a deep dark, corner of the basement was my worst offender—old journals.

I haven't counted them, but my estimate is there are over 100 of them, dating back over twenty years. I never revisit them, nor would I want anyone else, especially my children, to see what is written inside. They're not John Doe's ramblings from the movie Se7en but they are filled with the rather uncensored, emotional version of a younger me—and I don't wish that on anybody.

Unfortunately, because of these feelings, I've decided to destroy them by running them through a paper shredder. Occasionally, while I work away, I catch sight of a few of my thoughts, but for the most part, I ignore what was written as I feed it into the slot.

The most interesting aspect of this process is the psychic purge that occurs as I get rid of these journals. Some of them contain bits of old story ideas, some recollections of old events, as well as in-the-moment reporting ("Anna woke up early today and I haven't even had coffee yet..."). However, by grinding these pages up, I am grinding up the mental space they hold inside of me.

A long time ago, I stopped myself from chasing story ideas—meaning, if an idea came, I didn't write it down too much. I got into the habit of trusting my brain that—if the idea was good enough, it would come to me again the next day.

I feel that disposing of these journals is a similar response. Letting old thoughts go and refusing to hold onto them, I cherish the truly important ones more so. Sure, it would be great to know what I thought of March 16, 2006, but do I really need to? Does it offer me any great insights? Does it make me better now? Perhaps, but it's like worrying about actions that I can no longer change.

This process will proceed for several weeks. 100+ journals is a lot. However, with each page, each book, each box turned into shredded paper, I feel a tiny sense of relief—and release—clearing a space in the cellar of my mind for new, future possibilities.

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