Trash, Treasure, and…the Really Good Stuff


  • For as much I’ve decluttered my home and office over the past year or so,  I guess my excavations weren’t quite deep enough.  While re-arranging the home office, I found an old file cabinet that had not been emptied previously.  Somehow, it was missed in The Great Decluttering of 2007 as part of my last major spiritual “clearing”–or clearing out.  

    I’d kept the file cabinet for its surface, using it as a pillar for a work area.  I’ve been getting rid of file cabinets over the past year as I’ve switched to a digital system and at this point, I have need for only one very nice file cabinet that was a gift from someone special to me.  That cabinet houses original documents that I also have scans of.  It’s funny how everything else could either be scanned or tossedbecause that part of my life has passed and need not be revisited or, much of these old treasures are only worth keeping if I can access them through an easy search of pdf files.

    But back to this one old, lonely file cabinet.  Since most of our book orders are now filled through a warehouse and not out of the home office, I decided to free up this space and haul the empty cabinets to Goodwill.  Except…this one wasn’t empty.

    It was full of memories from long ago.  Treasures and trash such as:

    • Freshman college papers on the paranormal element in Old English folksongs (surprised?)
    • Graduate degree papers on the theme among isolation in Southern Writers
    • Utterly boring forgettable papers and projects for my Masters of Public Administration degree (trash category, clearly)
    • A Christian newsletter sporting my first published poem, thanks to a minister of music named Don Kirby
    • Several feature stories I wrote about my grandfather and what I learned from him when he was 90
    • Piano music I wrote at 15, and my love for minor chords
    • My ex’s original birth certificate (WTF?)
    • The 50-page report I wrote for the president of the first company I work for, the report that one of his underlings tried to take credit for but my boss sent a private copy to the boss as well as the official copy
    • The audio-visual presentation I created as a volunteer for the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce in hopes of keeping my hometown from dying (didn’t work)
    • Tons of forgotten novel ideas, non-fiction book schemes, and what are now referred to as “Vision Boards” of things I have manifested in my life
    • …and something else that surprised me.

    Flying By Night novel

I didn’t  take the time to read everything.   I mean, I  knew instantly I didn’t care to keep or scan copies of papers on the deficiency of bureaucracy or recommended  budgets for the US Government.    Some are good enough. I want to keep for posterity so they went into the scan bin and others are things that still give me those warm fuzzy feelings when I think of them, so they were kept or scanned as well.

But at the bottom was the essay that got me to State level in the Rhodes Scholarship competition–against my faculty advisor’s wishes and against my dad’s ear-busting commands (he didn’t want me to win and go overseas where something bad might happen to me because bad things always happen, right?).  I didn’t enter the competition through my university.  Nor did I have any help from anyone at my university–as I was shocked to discover my rivals had had and everyone expected that I had been given as well.  No mock tribunal prep for me!  Nothing to prepare me for being the little country bumpkin going to the big, bad city to compete with politically savvy and socially-groomed candidates who’d spent their summers assisting Congressmen or patenting…something.  Sure, I’d written a book but I truly felt out there on a limb all by myself and without the support of anyone at all, except (bless her) my naive mom.  My university did give a stamp of approval to a couple of other students, though.  None of them made the first couple of cuts.

I was so quiet and, at the same time, differentat 19 that the faculty advisor I idolized rolled her eyes and actually sent a damaging letter of non-recommendation to the scholarship coordinator, which he later showed me, crushing my admiration for one of only two female full professors at my university and the role model for what I’d intended as a career in teaching College English.  When I asked her advice on the application’s essay (she was the advisor to any student entering the competition), she informed me of what I was to write about and then disapproved the essay I felt drawn to write.  Even though I was only 19 and revered her as a goddess, I did something with guts and clarity–I followed my instincts and wrote what I felt drawn to write, then I bypassed the university and submitted it without being their candidate of choice.   The judges told me later that my essay really stood out from the rest and amazed them.  It’s what, despite not being well-travelled back then and very shy, landed me a shot a the State competition.  I’ve not thought much about that essay over the past couple of decades–I didn’t make the cut for Nationals–but when I saw it in that old file cabinet, I had to stop and read the first line.

My love of words is the formal unity which shapes my life.

Now that’s truly a treasurein this pile of trash and old memories–knowing that at 19 I had the clarity to see the thing that has shaped and contines to shape my life on a daily basis.


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