Then, I started looking through old family photo albums and trunks of Sterger memorabilia while collecting the framework for a future project of mine. It was a scrapbooker’s worst nightmare realized: random photos of random people in random places… in complete and utter disarray. In a word… a cluster@#$%.
These albums had everything. There were the embarrassing baby bath tub shots, where I could have definitely landed the gig as the Michelin Tire man’s infant daughter. The kiddie pool pictures from my grandparents house in
It was a regular “This is Your Life Jenn Sterger” photo montage. But there was something missing. Where were all the high school years?... The project specifically called for pictures from my high school prom and of course from my Marching band days. I searched for hours on end through box upon box of stuff but all I came up with was a serious case of the sneezes from all the dust. Then, it dawned on me. I hadn’t checked “The Suitcase.”
When most girls say they have baggage, they mean it in a more figurative sense, like bad memories of being humiliated in front of their childhood crush, or the first time a boy broke their heart. Mine however, was literal … BAGGAGE: An ugly, green suitcase, buried underneath my bed, behind several pull out drawers of shoes. Until Monday that is.
I had all but forgotten the bag even existed. I mean, it had been buried there since 2002, and I really saw no need to dig up my past. I really had no idea what I would find in this suitcase of swootness (which for those of you who don’t know… is the exact OPPOSITE of sweetness), but I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. That’s because my high school experience was anything but. A series of not so nice boyfriends, a roll call list of frenemies, and of course a non-existent social life outside of the safe haven that was band practice. As I cracked open the case, I was opening my own Pandora ’s Box.
Amid a pile of dried up corsages, a graveyard of greeting cards, and a heap of handwritten notes… there it was. The Truth.
It was like an archaeological dig through my unresolved personal issues. The “best friends” that disappeared the minute things got tough. The popular kids that pretended to be your friends, only to make you the punchline of a sick joke for their own personal amusement. There were the old photos of boyfriend’s past: The fellow band geek, the jock, the drunk, the stoner. It was like “Win, LOSER, draw” THE HIGH SCHOOL EDITION. Each one was totally unique, but all divided by a common denominator: TRUST. It was because of these
men boys, that I built the largest wall since the days of the
But it wasn’t the pictures of the Ex’s that caught my attention. It was more the pictures of myself. I was a chameleon of sorts. I was the preppy geek in the Band shirt I had designed myself. I was the awkwardly shy girl in her boyfriend’s letter jacket sitting at the top of bleachers. I was the trendy clothed sober girl that looked ridiculously out of place in a sea of the beautiful people. I was.. the outsider.
I had changed my look so many times by the time I had graduated; even I had no idea who I was anymore. My appearance never stayed the same for too long, because I was so eager to please others. I was so afraid to disappoint… that I had given up on just being myself. The sad thing was… it didn’t stop at high school. It was still happening.
I let the past dictate who I am, and how I portray myself to the world far too often. And while my exterior has changed, not much else has. I’m still the same insecure dreamer I always was… constantly seeking approval from others. It has affected my family, my friendships, and my love life. I’m scared to trust anyone based on the way others have treated me, and let me down. And while I don’t expect people to feel sorry for me, I do ask for empathy and understanding.
As my trip down memory lane was ending, and I neared the bottom of the case… I discovered a randomly misplaced DVD. I’m sure it had accidentally been tossed in there with all the garbage in one of my mother’s “Clean your frickin room” rampages. I turned the case over.Random. But appropriate. It had been my ‘go to’ movie during hardships with boys. Maybe because it offered some kind of hope that a guy could like me for all my quirks and weird idiosyncrasies. I put the movie on in the background as I continued organizing my new photos but found myself quickly distracted. And then… it happened.
You know the part…
“I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
That was it. THAT was my New Year’s Resolution. I would put the past where it belongs… behind me. I would move forward with my life, but not forget where I came from. I would learn from the people in my past, but realize the ones in my present shouldn’t pay for their mistakes. I would learn to trust again, because it’s the foundation for so many of life’s relationships. I resolve to be nothing but myself. And if a guy doesn’t like it.. so be it. But at least I would know… who I was. And that.. was really all that mattered.
As I finished up my project, I looked back down at the suitcase beside me. I knew what I had to do. Gathering all the photos and garbage around my room… I crammed the last of my bad memories into the green abomination and carried it down the driveway. And then… I finally did what any person looking for a fresh start does with their unwanted baggage: I checked it with the next day’s garbage.
Maybe its best that “old acquaintances be forgotten, and never come to mind.” If all they did was prevent you from becoming a better, stronger you. We tend to live in the past because most of our life is there. But really, the past is behind us to learn from it. The future is in front of us to prepare for it. But the present is here. So why not live it?... After all, life is a sum of all of our experiences. And while I suck at math…I resolve to make my answer a positive number.
“Never regret the things that once made you smile…. Because at the time.. it was exactly what you wanted.”-- Anonymous