Shredding & Burning the Past

by Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical on May 31, 2011

Copyright Matt Koenig Photography

It’s Memorial Day and what better way to celebrate than to dig up old memories and burn them.  What am I talking about?  I just spent the weekend shredding and then burning over 15 years of miscellaneous paperwork that has been stacked up around the house in numerous boxes.

This is just stage 1 of Operation Un-clutter in preparation for your sabbatical move.  Stage 2 involves giving a bunch of stuff to Goodwill/Salvation Army.  Stage 3 involves large yard/garage sales where we eliminate the bulk of our clutter.  And finally we’ll culminate Operation Un-Clutter by selling our cars which is where the bulk of our sabbatical money is coming from.  Timing is everything here.

As I was going through boxes upon boxes of paperwork the memories started flooding back.  It was like peeling back the layers of an onion with each layer revealing some lost memory brought back to life by simply looking at a piece of paper be it a bill, a credit card statement a receipt.

It’s funny how something so simple can bring back so many memories.  I found all my college transcripts and remembered my time studying, riding my bike to class in frigid downpours, drinking a few beers between classes and finally receiving my degree in Wildlife Science.

I found the receipt for the purchase of my truck and remembered the day I bought it and how happy I was that I now owned a 4X4 truck.  Looking at the sales receipt I realized I paid more than I had original thought.  I’d always wanted a truck and had seen this beauty on a lot and knew I had to make an offer.  This brought back memories of the winter I spent driving around the desert southwest backpacking into remote areas of Zion, Joshua Tree and Organ Pipe National Park.  I remembered the flood in Death Valley I had to drive through and how my truck started floating down the water filled road.

In one box was my first job offer letter to a game company called Dynamix (Sierra Online) and remembered the good times I had working there before the place closed its doors forever.  Lots of friendships were made there that continue even today.  This was the first job that I actually enjoyed getting up in the morning for.  How much better can it be to wake up in the morning and go into a place where video games are being made?

I uncovered my first health insurance bill and found it ironic that 15 years ago one could get a family policy with $500 deductible for $200.  It’s well over $800/month for the same plan today.  My, how times have changed.

A receipt for my first handgun popped up.  It was a Rugar P89 9mm with a 17 round clip.  I still have that gun today and it’s been fun to go out shooting, although it’s been 10+ years since it’s been fired.

I found some old photos of my Dad and I in Joshua Tree National Park, back in the day when it was still a National Monument.  It brought back memories of the time we were hiking in the park and as we were climbing a small rock outcropping we heard the distinctive rattle of a rattlesnake which was just feet from where we were.

In another box I found an old card from my Grandma who passed away several years ago.  It was a “Thinking of You” card produced in the early 1950’s.  It’s funny how something so simple as a greeting card can bring back a flood of memories of the people you love and miss.

There were a lot of firsts I found in those boxes.  My first truck, my first handgun, my first apartment rental agreement, my first transmission rebuild, my first full suspension mountain bike, my first crock-pot with user manual and my first job offer.

You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present. ~ Jan Glidewell

There were lots of both good and painful memories that had been boxed up for years.  In many ways it was cathartic to go through all those documents, spark old memories and then ritually shred and burn them away.

Don’t try and forget the past.  Memories are great.  The past is great.  There are plenty of lessons to learn from the past but those lessons can only help us if we are willing to allow the future to take hold of us.  It’s when we allow ourselves to remain trapped in the memories of the past that we cheat ourselves out of experiencing an incredible future.  Which way are you heading?

There are memories that will never leave us; the hurt and pain of a lost love, the passing of a soul, the feelings of our “first” whatever.  These are all memories to cherish but don’t let them trap you.  Shred and burn anything that keeps you from pursuing the future.

I’m 15+ years lighter now and feeling pretty good about it.  One last piece of advice I can offer for anyone going through the same process.  Don’t toss anything without going through it first.  You might be surprised at what you find; like your crock-pot manual.  Seriously though, remembering is good. Just don’t let it hold you back.

You may have noticed that I didn’t post last week.  Without going into too many details it wasn’t because I’ve given up on the sabbatical quest.  No, we’re still frantically planning and preparing for that life change.  The reason is that I was busy working on my photography and frankly didn’t have anything important to add here.  Rather than force a post I just left things alone.  I’m also preparing to attend The World Domination Summit later this week but more on that later.  A few days of making new memories with bloggers from all over the world.  It’s going to be epic.  Will I be seeing you there?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gillian @OneGiantStep May 31, 2011 at 12:12 pm

“It’s when we allow ourselves to remain trapped in the memories of the past that we cheat ourselves out of experiencing an incredible future.”

Great post Matt!! Looking back is a great way to see how far we have come and to guide ourselves into the future. Great perspective. Thank you.

See you in PDX!!!
Gillian @OneGiantStep recently posted..A Letter From The Past

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Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical May 31, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Thanks Gillian! Looking forward to seeing you there. Safe travels!

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