Monday, August 27, 2012

Purging the Stuff, Not the Memories

I’ve come across some cool stuff while going through all these boxes from my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.

I discovered my Cabbage Patch Kids (and almost immediately found new homes for them), some old Legos, and the very first Fossil watch I ever owned (which is unfortunately all corroded from leaving a spent battery in it for too many years).

I have already warned my boyfriend about the forthcoming Beanie Babies. I have a huge box stuffed full of nothing but Beanie Babies. I can’t wait to give those suckers away to good homes.

(Just as soon as I find them.)

So, last night, I came across a box that had a bunch of notebooks and folders from college. One of the folders was a packet from the Alpha Phi Omega national convention in 1996, which was held in Phoenix, Arizona.

Inside the packet, I came across a huge collection of folded pieces of paper.

I was utterly confused.

I began unfolding the papers and reading their contents. I read paper after paper, until finally, it hit me.

Suddenly, a wave of memory hit me as the whole 1996 convention flashed back into my mind. I read every single note and laughed. Some of them were inside jokes I’ve long since forgotten. Some were from people I still remember, and other notes just struck me as peculiarly funny.

A few of the notes contained pleas to buy t-shirts like what we were wearing (the front of the shirt said, “We do service, what the hell do you do?”)

And a lot of the notes discussed party logistics, because, let’s face it—if you’re a college kid going to a decent hotel with 1500 other college kids from all across the country… there will be parties. 

Good parties.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading those notes and strolling down that long and twisted lane of memories. Those notes even jogged my memory on some of the details of parliamentary procedure (sometimes called Robert’s Rules of Order).

I was one of the voting delegates, which means I had the honor of sitting on the legislation floor, along with over 200 other chapters from across the country.

So as voting delegates, we could not randomly get up and walk around, we had to wait for breaks. If we needed something, we used a runner to pass a note to the peanut gallery, asking someone out there to go get us whatever we needed.

For those not familiar with parliamentary procedure, the peanut gallery is the space behind delegate seats where the general public can listen in. If anyone in the peanut gallery had strong opinions about legislation on the floor, they could send a note to their delegates. Sort of like real-time lobbying.

Any delegate could also pass notes to another delegate on the voting floor.

Are you getting this picture?

Imagine a bunch of college kids sitting in a giant hotel ball room, with runners constantly on the move, passing notes, t-shirts, money, sodas, snacks, and whatever else amongst the peanut gallery and delegates.

It was actually pretty cool, but it did get boring to sit there all day if the legislation you cared about had come and gone.

I loved coming across those notes and having that sudden flash of memory.

I also threw the notes away, along with all the other accoutrements from that convention.

(Go me!)

I’ll never forget how important Alpha Phi Omega was to me. It gave me a sense of purpose, back when I didn’t feel I had one. My favorite role was liaising with other chapters and building the connection between our chapter at Vanderbilt and other chapters at schools in our region.

APO was so important to me that I became a life member during my senior year in college. I was also awarded a Distinguished Service Key, which is the highest honor a chapter can give a member. It's given for outstanding service to the fraternity. 

I’ve done absolutely nothing with APO since those days, but through that co-ed service fraternity, I found my friends and a sense of purpose. I learned and then taught leadership skills. I learned the depth of value of community service, and I learned that one person really can make a difference. I even organized an entire weekend convention, including presenters and a whole host of other tiny little details. It nearly broke me, but it’s one of the best experiences I ever had back in those days, because it showed me a glimpse of what I was (and am) really made of.

(And it's not completely out of place to mention that the theme for that conference's t-shirt was, "You'll love the stuff we're made of." Yes. We stole the Pizza Hut tag line from those days... oops.)

I’ll always have these memories. And now that I’m finally going through all of this crap and throwing it away, I can record the memories in my own way, so I won’t forget them again. It's refreshing to finally understand that I don't need to hang on to all of this stuff as physical representation of the memories. 

I have to say that although this cleansing and letting go process is not easy… it's not all bad, either.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you. I've found that making videos that explain the stories, as I display the items, work great. Photos & scans work just as well for other things. Also, I usually end up with a pile of gifts that others value much higher than I do.

    Keep going.