Have you ever recognized the insane number of little thoughts that flit through your head each day? The opinions you form, the emotions you feel, the jokes you tell yourself? Sometimes my mind is like a pinball machine, bouncing from subject to subject (or, more accurately, like a person walking through the living room in the dark, bumping from piece of furniture to piece of furniture. Not that this has ever happened).
My mind makes these frantic trips around the space that is my brain and creates its own culture, its own environment, inside my head. It sounds weird to say it this way, but I think it’s true for us all. We all have roads our minds travel over and over, sometimes deepening them into ruts. We all have trains our minds ride for a while before getting off to ride the next one. Sometimes we ride one train too long or too often and we have to exit quickly and never buy another ticket…
The truth is, there are thoughts we think that no one else will ever know about, not only because it would be annoying as hell for us to tell everything we think, but also because we ourselves aren’t always aware of what the mind entertains itself with. These thoughts are lost, sloughing off with each day, never preserved, never contained. Of course, they must be in the brain somewhere, and sometimes a remembered thought hits us suddenly years down the road.
But so much of our internal lives are never remembered by the world, and that’s terrifying to me.
My best friend teases me for liking “old things,” antiques and dried flowers and doilies. One time I asked her opinion of my vintage-style home decorating, and then… I never asked her opinion again. Moronically and hilariously, it’s one of our major disagreements (along with the role of fruit in dessert).
But I will forever like “old things” because they have what we often call “character.” You go in an old house and see the scratched wood floor and say “wow, this house has character.” It’s a way of recognizing that this place, this thing, has seen life. It’s been around for years of thoughts and conversations and emotions.
I think that’s why I love my old things so much: they are a way to grab hold of those million fleeting thoughts that bump around in our brains day after day. Someday we will be gone, and our thoughts with us, and all that’s left will be the coffee tables we stubbed our toes on and the picture frames we dusted and the dishes we ate off of. For a brief moment, each dusty thing in an antique store was once audience to the thoughts and feelings that no one else will ever know or remember. And now they are all that’s left.
Does this sound nihilistic? I don’t mean to be nihilistic. I’m just trying to defend my love of old things.
I also think this is what gives me even more conviction to be a good writer. The great moments in history, the wars and celebration and speeches, will always be remembered. But it’s the little things, the jokes around the dinner table, the shade of blue the sky was on a certain day, or the smell of your grandmother’s perfume when you hugged her, that won’t be.
That’s a shame, because all those little details are what life is. And that is even more noble and real than the great moments could ever hope to be. But out of sight, out of mind. We don’t realize how good our days are until they’ve passed and become the good old days.
This is why I’ll always love my old things and try to remember each stupid detail of each humdrum phase of life. This is why I have a shelf full of journals and random scraps of thoughts written on paper and phrases typed into my phone on the go so I don’t forget them. Because these little stories are life, and these little stories are what we end up caring about.
These little stories are what writers are here to tell.