The art of collecting memories

Alicia’s collage of memories from her freshman year. (Photo by Alicia Anderson)
Alicia’s collage of memories from her freshman year. (Photo by Alicia Anderson)

Written by: Alicia Anderson

For a while now, my main source of home decor has been things I have collected, not just because this method is cheap, but because at the end of the year, I have a physical narrative of the highs and lows of my semesters — a kind of crime board where everything is connected. 

I appreciate the slow process of curating a space that represents myself. During my freshman year, I collected things on a bulletin board above my desk that represented my year and what it’s like to be a student at Southern Adventist University. Some notable items included: 

  1. Five parking tickets issued by Campus Safety
  2. A self-care poster from the counseling center
  3. A sticker from a Student Association candidate 
  4. The business card of Tropical Cuisine Restaurant from the time I went with friends at the beginning of the year 
  5. A postcard from the Coca Cola museum in Atlanta. I visited the city and drank Coca Cola for the first time that year, and Coca Cola soon became a favorite of mine.
  6. A sticker of two cats with headscarves that my resident assistant gave me. 
  7. A Galentines-day card of a cat on top of a washing machine that a friend from my chemistry class gave me. In it, she wrote, “We will pass!!” And we did. 
  8. A photo booth strip from a Southern event–I can’t remember which one, but it says, “Southern Serves!” 
  9. An excused absence report from the University Health Center
  10. A passage written down from one of Joan Didion’s “Slouching towards Bethlehem” essays titled “On Keeping a Notebook,”– one of my favorite books and an essay that spoke to my soul
  11. A disposable camera photo from my high school grauation day, a reminder of the life I had before college 
  12. A photo booth strip of my sister and I, ages 11 and 9: our girlhood commemorated on the wall of the first place I ever lived on my own

At the end of freshman year, I dismantled my wall of memories and put them all into a notebook. Now, I can flip through that notebook and see what I saw on the wall above my desk during all those late nights I spent studying. When I look into my notebook, it is a reminder of what it feels like to be 18 and independent. It reminds me of what it felt like to apply to the nursing program.

Another example of my love of collecting memories is my water bottle: an old, yellow Hydro Flask, covered with stickers I’ve been gifted from friends, found on vacations and collected in my lifetime. When I take out that water bottle, I definitely feel embarrassed at the ostentatiousness of it, but I’m comforted by the reminder that I carry all the past versions of myself through it. 

I don’t want to seem materialistic, but I find that items that  are full of memories bring perspective to my life. I love to feel nostalgic about the times in my life that were turning points of growth for me.

As Walt Whitman once said, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” I hope to continue the search for small tidbits of my daily life that will anchor me back to this present moment. And because of the sentimental value this memory-collecting method brings to my life, I encourage you to begin your own journey of collecting and commemorating as well.

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