Ever since I moved away from home, I’ve lugged around a few boxes that I refused to open. Within were literal pages from my past — old notebooks, sketches, school assignments from my youth. For years, I didn’t want to confront them. Not because I was embarrassed by them, but because digging through your past (in this case literally) can often be very painful. It was best just to leave it be.
Until yesterday. In packing for my move to Tacoma, WA, I’m determined only to bring the things I really need. Those two boxes hidden in the pantry had to be confronted.
I was initially surprised by how much I didn’t remember. It was like spying on a completely different person. Apparently, when I was seven, I kept a meticulous, weekly journal of everything I did for an entire year, complete with illustrated recreations of each event. In the first grade, when a school assignment asked me what three things I would want on a deserted island, I listed a ladder, a saw and a subscription to The Reader’s Digest.
When I was 11, my family moved from Las Vegas to Flagstaff. It was a difficult transition for me and in my written record, you can see that little boy turn inward. Having trouble making friends in a new school, his drawings and stories about adventures with a large group of friends disappear. In the years that follow, he writes and rewrites the places and people he left behind, draws maps and dreams of far-flung futures on distant planets. I see the old me trapped in the past like a fly in amber and longing to escape the present.
Twelve years change a man. Where I once saw Flagstaff as an unforgiving foreign land. That boy grew up here, found his lifelong friends here, boxed those old thoughts and fears away, and then finally let them go.
Tomorrow, I leave for a new place again. But this time, I’m not taking my past baggage. Tomorrow is a clean start and we can all use one of those.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer and photographer in Flagstaff, AZ who sometimes still dreams of far off times and places. On July 31, he moves to Washington state in pursuit of fame and fortune. You can follow the expedition here and on Twitter. Thanks for reading!