Paths Not Chosen

I’ve been trying to clear out some clutter lately, minimalist-style.   It has been kind of cathartic to re-handle all this crap, and think about the things I didn’t use, and the various “kicks” I was on when some of this came into my life in the first place.

My library, especially, looks like the Museum Of Short-Lived Enthusiasms.  Then there are the Spanish language CD’s when I was going to really learn Spanish, this time!  Various software books for apps I was going to be expert on.  And about a dozen or so other interests that for some reason seemed so appealing when I was originally considering them, but have abandoned after a few half-hearted attempts.

Why do we do this?  What would life be like for us if we actually followed through on ALL of this stuff?  What if we became that guitar-playing, Spanish-speaking, Excel-expert gourmet cook that we apparently wanted to be at one time?  And why didn’t we?

I think the answer is just Life.  For at the same time we are trying to pick our way through Life’s maze and discovering all this amazing stuff, there’s another turn ahead and we need to have to put things down and worry about something more pressing.   You were doing fine learning a new hobby or interest and then there was that week you had to put in some extra hours at work, and you just never went back to it.

Or things progressed until an even further commitment of time or money was needed, which you couldn’t make.  Or a million other reasons that are forgotten to you now.

Going back and seeing all this stuff just before you haul it off is like visiting a snapshot of the past.  You remember where and when you picked it up, and what life was like for you then.  Waves of nostalgia are triggered.  This is why most people never get rid of their crap!

I find the cure for this is being brutally “present”, as our Zen friends might put it.  Life is right NOW, and if you don’t want to do it now, you are probably not going to do it ever.  Life flows past you and you can grab for what you can, but you can never get it all.  And even the brief exposure you may have had taught you something.

So let it go.  It really does feel good to empty and then see what fills you next.


6 thoughts on “Paths Not Chosen

  1. Haha, Museum of Short-Lived Enthusiams! I have a houseful. Oh yeah there’s a shed too. I think it’s difficult to stay motivated under your own power, you need to be impassioned, or have the need to compete, or have someone nagging you to get on with it. I have lost interest in art because it’s so disappointing to sell, and I’m tired of people saying “just do it for yourself.” Why? So I gaze sadly at my dust-covered drawing board with all its accompaniments, but refuse to remove it, because you never know. Though, like you, I believe in clearing the clutter, there are some things you can put on your “bucket list.”

    • “because you never know” – the phrase that has filled a million closets! As I get older I realize my “never know” time is rapidly diminishing, and if I ever do get fired up on something again, I will probably end up going out and buying updated, new stuff again anyway.
      You’re right, you do need to strike while the iron is hot, and sometimes it cools rather rapidly.

      • Reading this made me think of myself as a total contrast, now: There were times when I had kept my long-read books, scraps of papers with poetic scribbles, some forgotten people and their memories by my side. But then I realized that all that really doesn’t matter — all that will never come back.

        Today, I live a clutter-free, baggage-free life…for I have no more energy and emotions to waste on people who never cared and those bygone times. I live in a bag: that’s my only possession. And so far, it has been liberating!

      • Life should be spent looking forward, instead of backward. Us older folks sometimes forget this and keep investing energy in the past. I’m always reminded of the lyrics from Don Henley’s song “Boys of Summer”…..”those days are gone forever, you should just let’em go..”

        By the way, I just visited your blog…very nice combination of photography and poetry, very simple and uncluttered!

  2. I go through my things every so often and find those half finished projects, optimistic hobby items, and other ephemera and always feel a bit guilty; like I let myself down. Maybe if I had followed through on those interests I would be a better person for it.

    I’ve always envied my friends who manage to not gain clutter, or at least have purposeful clutter. A buddy of mine is an illustrator and a toy collector. He has toys and artwork everywhere, but he’s never bought tools and wood for a shed he never built, or the gear to take up quilting, yarn and needles gathering dust. His hobbies have stayed consistent forever and nothing really derails him from that. There’s a focus there that is admirable.

    True, life does get in the way – but it’s a pleasant thought to have that passion will guide you back to those once wistful ideas of learning Spanish or taking up painting.

    • I can understand the sentiments about feeling disappointed in yourself, but over the years I’ve come to realize that we only have so much time and so many resources to devote to anything. And to master anything takes a significant commitment. Your point about your friend the illustrator is a good one. I see some of the “minimalist” folks almost on a path of self-negation. We are here to create new things, not to reduce who we are. And that takes stuff!
      We only need to keep the stuff that moves us down the path we want to be on… for the rest, it is part of exploring other things, which is a huge part of what makes life worthwhile.

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