This Is Your Life

Have you ever had your life flash before your eyes? I have. Well not exactly “flash” if that means you are in danger and in an instant you remember all the things that you’ve done and should have done.

My “flash” took place over the course of about a week. And I wasn’t in danger. Let me explain.

I’m a hoarder. Not the kind that will ever get his own reality show or that you will read about in the morning paper when the police finally have to knock down my door to save me from myself. No. I’m the kind that collects files, especially personal files such as bills, cancelled checks, receipts that go with tax returns, that kind of thing. Oh. And notes and cards. And maybe key pieces of paper from volunteer Boards and Committees that I’ve served on. I’ve learned that there is really nothing that doesn’t come back around again and it helps to not have to re-invent everything every time. If I throw it away I’ll probably need it. (And please remember that I’m sooooo 20th century.) But sooner or later, reality — not a TV show, but the real thing — catches up to you and you realize that those cancelled checks from 1980 probably aren’t necessary anymore.

So I decided to clean out old files and get rid of everything. Well almost everything, some things you really do need to keep for future reference. Realizing that this is the 21st century and that much of it can and will be used against me if found by the wrong person, I needed to shred everything that I was throwing away. You would be surprised what additional personal information was collected in the “old” days before everything was automated and you could actually rely on the neighborhood banker or business not to sell your information.

Shredding checks takes a long time and is terribly boring as well. As a result, I actually started looking at specific pieces of what I was shredding. A big mistake, I know, efficiency experts really would not approve. What I found was that the events of my adult life could be traced by those checks. Who they were made out to and where they were written sent me careening down the road of my past. Fortunately, it was about 98% positive. But it was all there. Courting and marrying my wife. Establishing our first home. The travels that we took. Moving around the country as job requirements dictated. The birth of my son. The many schools that he attended and the subsequent school events we supported. Dealing with reliable child care or after school care. Sports (his and mine). Family vacations. Splurges. All of it there and it was an amazing, untapped, unknown accounting of nearly every key event in my life.

A mind-numbing process as much as could ever be turned into a pleasant and nostalgic review of the highlights of my life so far. A surprise and a lesson in taking in and enjoying the little tasks that pop up with unexpected treasures.

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