The End of An Era

Published on August 26th, 2011

Travis has finally decided to clean out his closet and move on with his life. Over 700 CDs have been shipped off to the local Beat Goes On, and he couldn’t feel better.

To my former self,

I’ve done it. You’re going to hate me for it, and maybe some part of you always knew that it would happen, but I have done the unspeakable. At the time of this writing, I have begun to clean out the massive amount of crap in our room that you left behind for me to manage.

You may not appreciate it in your time, but I can tell you that although it was a big surprise, I feel better now. Like a weight lifted off my shoulders, my collection of stuff that was piled higher every week and with ever increasing danger of crushing some poor soul beneath its weight (probably a family member or concerned friend) is now manageable.

Now, you may worry that I have succumbed entirely to letting other people tell me how to spend my money and my time, but this simply isn’t the case at all. I still watch terrible movies and listen to music that doesn’t always satisfy me completely, but I have been trying to remove myself from the trap of being a collector for collections’ sake. I think I understand where some of that all comes from now, and having recognized the impulse to archive everything and the costs (not just financial, but emotional) of that, I believe it will make my life easier and more enjoyable.

I remember feeling suspicious of people that only watched art films, or only listened to indie bands, or that didn’t read superhero comics due to some ill-formed literary pretension. I felt that these people were cutting a lot out of their lives by trying to sanitize their pop culture consumption, something I couldn’t imagine trying, let alone succeeding at. Instead, I took what I thought was the opposite approach and ingested as much as I could, so that I could at least give myself context for the things I really loved. And while you’re making a valiant effort to be a pop-culture guru, you will end up causing yourself more grief than necessary acting this way. You will beat yourself up over the fact that people don’t appreciate the things that you’ve heard or seen, or that people dissect things they don’t like for improperly thought out reasons. This will always happen.

So, since you’ve taken a hard-line stance against downloading albums (despite a mixed-up perspective of economics – free digital downloads will never 100% represent lost revenue), you’ve purchased a great number of albums or films cold, without hearing word one about them. You made a lot of money in the summer working some pretty crappy jobs, and the limited amount of retail therapy you were afforded in a small-town fit the bill. An excuse to go to Music World once a week wasn’t such a bad thing in the grand scheme of things.

(Remember how CDs were like $25-35 there, and how unfeasible it seemed to be so inflexible with their business model? Guess what – you were totally right.)

And you may cite Grandpa’s overwhelmingly huge antique collection as a sign of similar behaviour, and that it’s perfectly okay to accumulate huge amounts of stuff. There are several ways in which I can respond to that. The first is that you will not have the same physical resources and space that Grandpa had. If you ever want to leave home, you will need to be more mobile. Embrace digital media. Forget about discs and books for a while. Second: Learn about and spend more time with people. Grandpa’s collection afforded him the opportunity (or the excuse) to travel and talk to people with shared interests, giving him common ground with people outside of his local social group. It was healthy for him, but you’re not exactly going to concerts or conventions for a lot of these bands.

(Side-Note: Until last week I owned 5 albums by the rock group 54-40, but could not tell you more than 2 song titles from any of them. This is how bad the problem had gotten, and the band name has become something of a metaphor for the whole thing in conversation with my friends. Thankfully, they can now make fun of me for the things I actually like.)

And you may also argue that these items remind you of people and places that you don’t want to forget. Fond memories, and often difficult memories that you have learned from and have shaped your character (and believe me, you have a long way to go on that front). This is perfectly reasonable, but you don’t need these things to maintain relationships. Phone calls, emails and face-time help with that. Spend time outside, go to the beach and save a few bucks for a car or a trip to a warmer country. You won’t regret it.

Although it sounds like I am condemning you for the copious purchases of CDs, DVDs, comic books and other plastic items, I certainly am not. Going through box after box of this stuff has helped clarify what I want from my pop culture, and what purpose it serves in my life – which I would have thought to be more well-defined by now.

You’ve hung on to ‘important’ albums simply because that seemed like an honourable thing for the pop-culture student and scholar to do. After six years in school, you will find that you are equipped with the tools to defend what you like with reasonable competence, and how to appropriately deconstruct ‘legendary’ works if need be. Although it will give you personal satisfaction, don’t attempt the latter too often because it will piss people off. If there is any advice I would like to give you its to never get involved with critical conversations about the Beatles outside of the classroom. It will never end well, and someone will always take it personally. The Beatles are not important to you, and may never be, they’re personal for a lot of people. You will understand more about this as time goes on.

While physical media is falling out of favour, you may be worried about forgetting a song that reminds you of a party, a trip or even someone that doesn’t talk to you anymore. The system isn’t perfect yet, but digital media allows for the physical space conservative preservation of everything you’ve ever loved. Everything everywhere all the time. Don’t worry so much about losing part of yourself in the absence of these reminders, you’ll still hum a tune from your youth from time to time. You may even get drunk with friends and go on a nostalgic YouTube trip (it’s a thing people do, don’t ask).

One of the most important parts of all of this is that you should be assured that you are a person who will never be uninterested in seeing, hearing and reading new things. Piles of boxes filled with dusty discs and cracked cases get in the way of that. When those boxes are gone you will not miss them, but you won’t forget the songs they contain. You will seize the opportunity and start listening to a wider variety of new material and new authors, things that will inspire you to pick up a guitar more often. Be excited and be receptive to new ideas and experiences.

Warm regards,

My Current Self

P.S.: No matter what anyone says, do NOT watch a show called Hoarders while stoned!


  1. Posted by Max on August 26th, 2011, 18:56 [Reply]

    P.S.: No matter what anyone says, do NOT watch a show called Hoarders while stoned!

    disagree with this advice 🙂

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