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The Patience of Ordinary Things

Pre-university packing is undoubtedly a chore. But it is more than the boredom of the task that makes deviations from it so enjoyable. 

I try to avoid procrastination. I find it is generally an exercise in dread and guilt; more ‘deer caught in the headlights of too many deadlines’, than ‘casual enjoyment of leisure time’. What little self preservation instincts I have in this matter, however, fall completely out of the window when it comes to the distractions I find during packing for my return to Oxford. 

The ease with which I am entirely absorbed by the (re)discovery of my own possessions is an offence with a myriad of causes. Latent hoarder-ish tendencies, the multiple misguided phases of my teenage years, and an embarrassingly eroded attention span all play their part – but the clutter of an old bedroom evokes a tenderness that extends far beyond the mere distractions they provide. 

The detritus of our pasts reflect the hopes, ambitions and disappointments that accompanied them. What may appear to the untrained (or undeluded) eye as a wardrobe full of ugly hats and ill-fitting jumpers, contains the narrative of all the joys and pains and lessons learned of navigating a shifting identity, while also slowly realising that a ‘signature hat’ is a CBBC  costuming prop, not a thing that any actual functional person should aspire to own. The rediscovery of a notebook half-filled with ‘potential future catch phrases’ is not only proof that in 2016 I truly considered saying ‘schwing’ at the end of every joke I made; it is an encounter with yet another discarded attempt at reinvention, a reminder of the old yearning for change. 

How truly can we say that our past selves are gone, when there they are, right now – pressed between the pages of an old diary (in my case, rarely kept), woven into the fabric of a poorly-knitted scarf, wound tight around gifted rosary beads from a long-forgotten Catholic education? How easy is it to put down what you’re doing and hold a fragment of your own history in your hands? What version of you painted these walls and chose these posters and arranged these books? Do you miss them? 

When I finally get around to packing my actual necessities, I will (tragically) have to leave behind my old fidget spinners and top trump cards, so spending so much time rifling through them may seem like a waste – but it provides a valuable space for reflection on the past, as we move into yet another new beginning. It’s almost a story in itself, really; once, a girl lived in this room. She couldn’t leave a beach without taking a pocketful of ‘cool’ rocks, and imagined a whole different life for herself every time she bought a new item of clothing. She isn’t here any more, not really. But her dog-eared books and used-up perfumes and unfinished plans are. And so am I.

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