This Friday, I’m going to burn my high school diploma.
The wonderfully great part of that story – it’s only the start of something much, much bigger: A “Life Bonfire” – my opportunity to purge some of the personal “crap” that I’ve felt compelled to hold on to all these years.
I’m going to torch personal effects like…
• Honors and awards
• Random keepsakes
Rationale: I’m going to burn anything that I don’t want to burden others with when I’m gone – high school diploma included.
I got this idea when my great aunt passed away several years ago.
When she died, my mom was responsible for handling all the stuff she left behind. She shared keepsakes with other members of our family, donated some items to charitable causes and sold the rest in an estate sale.
But there were a handful of things – personal, one-of-a kind items – that fell into a unique category. These were keepsakes that only had three logical destinations: A box in a loved one’s attic, in the landfill or on the wall of an Applebee’s.
I asked my mom for some examples of these personal treasures she found at my great aunt’s house:
• An autograph book from when my great aunt was in the 7th grade. My mom said it was a popular keepsake for teenage girls, where their friends could write sweet notes to you and/or about that person.
• My great aunt’s certificate for Junior Red Cross training. It was probably 85 to 90 years old.
Both very personal items that immediately did not have any relevance or significance with my great aunt gone. I’ll admit, it’s a little sad to think about, but it’s part of life, right?
I discovered a long time ago that the picture below is not practical…
…so my solution: “Life Bonfire.”
I’ve been thinking about this ceremonial blaze since I walked through my great aunt’s house one last time. That was my opportunity to pick out anything and everything that I wanted to hold on to.
There wasn’t anything.
That might sound harsh and cold, but a 7th-grade autograph book and/or a random certificate weren’t going to enhance the incredible memories I had of my mom’s aunt, who was like a third grandmother to me.
The wonderfully great memories I had were enough for me.
Not to mention, I had my own junk that I’d been accumulating for 35+ years.
But that did NOT keep my mom from gently persuading.
“Don’t you want this?”
“How about that?”
Then she mentioned the fire.
“You know whatever we can’t rid of, we’re probably going to have to burn,” she said.
I think it was mainly a take-something-please tactic, but my mom’s plea simply made me shift my focus and perspective to my life…to my keepsakes…to my personal “treasures.”
As we drove home that night, I started thinking normal, healthy, every-day thoughts. You know… “What if we were killed in a car accident tonight and someone had to go through all our crap?”
“I don’t want somebody else burning my stuff,” I thought to myself. “More importantly, I don’t want it to end up in some box in Crash’s closest so his kids’ kids can donate it to the landfill someday.”
“Now who was Drew again, Grandpa Crasher?”
“Why is his mouth open in all these pictures? He looks silly!”
At this point of the post, I think it’s important to share this quick note: I’m not dying and I don’t plan on dying anytime soon. (I’ve got too much to do.) I simply thought a “Life Bonfire” was a chance to reminisce one last time and purge. Take the inevitable into my own hands and live out the Neil Young creed: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”
So, that’s what I’m doing.
This Friday night, I’m going to pour me a glass of Jameson, fire up a cigar and stoke a blazing bonfire with some of my “treasures.” I might share a story about each item before it’s turned to ashes, or I might just tuck my lips, nod my head and sigh as I give it toss into the flames.
I wanted to share some of the things I’m letting go of. Here are some of the general items:
Old newspaper articles that I wrote during and after college
Certificates and Awards
Printed Collateral from e-Partners in Giving, the failed company I started in 2008
Some of the items are a little more unique and personal (Confession: A little harder to part with):
A Letter of Recommendation
My first newspaper story – EVER.
(from Journalism I in ninth grade)
One-of-a-kind Cartoons and doodles from junior high
FINAL THOUGHTS: I had a couple people read through this before I hit “Publish Post.” I had an uneasy feeling. Something didn’t feel right.
One of my friends said, “As an outsider, it might sound a little harsh.”
That’s the last thing I want to come across.
I want to stress how interesting and emotional this personal experiment has been. I’ve experienced a wave of emotions – from sadness to confusion. I’ve also debated whether I should actually go through with it.
A countless number of questions have surfaced, like:
• Should I hold on to this stuff and share it with Crash when he’s older? Will he care?
• Is getting rid of your parents’ and/or grandparents’ “treasures” just part of life? Am I denying my grandchildren this opportunity?
• Am I being insensitive and/or hyper-cynical?
• Will I regret this in 10 or 15 years?
• Should I just put this “crap” back in the attic and shut the hell up?
Please know…I’m not discounting these incredible memories – just the trivial symbols associated with them.
My high school graduation was one of the best days of my life. I remember it like it was yesterday. It represented an incredible journey and tremendous hope of things to come. It was a springboard to independence – the first step towards my future and destiny. I remember never feeling more confident, alive and excited. IN. MY. LIFE.
I don’t need a piece of paper to enhance that memory.
I’m really curious how other’s feel about this. Please share. (And keep the fire extinguisher close by.)