I made the mistake today of deciding that I wanted to do some cleaning. What was I thinking? In the beginning, the idea started because I've got some pretty serious clutter. I'm usually pretty good about at least keeping all my junk organized in some form or other. Which is why I have two boxes full of old papers and notes from various college courses, and/or miscellaneous events or happenings. Well, they were at my folks' house, happily away from me and not impacting my life in any shape or form. But then, for reasons beyond my power of comprehension, I was forced to take my stuff into my home. And I found it easier just to keep everything in its box rather than actually go through any of it and decide if anything within held even some minute significance to my very existence.

But space is finite, and I finally decided I wanted to clean up my apartment some. So I attacked the boxes. So far, I've managed to make a small dent in the heap of papers in only one of the two boxes. Here's a list of a few items I've found so far:

  • Homework and tests from a bunch of audiology classes. Interestingly, I have homework assignments that didn't even belong to me. As in, they belonged to other students in the class. Somehow, I was the lucky one who wound up with them. I'm surprised my former fellow students aren't beating down a path to my door, demanding I return their homework papers from 2005.
  • A couple of letters from government figures. I think those date back to high school. My government teacher insisted we send off letters about different "social" issues that mattered to us. We actually had to prove that we got letters in return, to show that we'd done our homework. So the damn letters are still in the little plastic lining my mother had me put them in, and perfectly preserved, vintage 2001 and 2002.
  • brainstorm brian!Remnants of Highlights magazines, in the form of a stack of the very back page. Which would, of course, be Brainstorm Brian's page. I used to love looking at those, fascinated by the super complex (not to mention nerdy) methods depicted to perform the most menial of tasks. Long-Distance Light Switch? Check. Pencil Point Producer? Check. Wait for it... these babies are vintage 1991 and 1992. And despite the early exposure, I'm still not an engineer.

While I sat and rediscovered this long-lost treasure, I also went through old CDs. The goal on that front: to get rid of CDs I never listen to. Let someone else enjoy them. So I pull out a stack of CDs and start going through them. As I listened to the music, a flood of memories washed over me, many of them I had eagerly put behind me. As I listened to different bits and pieces of shitty alternative rock bands I liked in high school, new time frames and memories popped into my head. Some of it elicited very sad emotions, and I remember laying in bed with my CD player, headphones turned up in the hopes that the music would drown out the pain I was feeling.

Most of all, though, I was reminded of just how far I've come in life. Today, I'm not fond of a lot of the music I listened to in high school. Which I chalk up to the journey of finding myself. My attempt to listen to music others around me enjoyed, and for some reason thinking that I had to like every single song on every CD I bought in order for the money spent to have been worth it. Even if I really didn't like it, I never would have admitted it. As if the very notion of having my own thoughts and opinions (or any such ideas, for that matter) would ruin me.

What struck me most was suddenly being transported back to my teenaged mind. A mind teeming with thoughts and life, but afraid to share it with anyone for fear that it wouldn't be what others wanted. And so it was silenced, told never to speak its thoughts, all the while knowing, taunting, and refusing to be anything other than exactly what it was.

Fast forward to the present. I am free, unbound by the fear that so consumed me. I am independent. I am a singer. I am a writer. I am a friend. I am out in the open. I am in love. And, most importantly, I am happy.