Where did the notes go?

As I went through the KonMari thing earlier this year, I peeled back layer after layer of accumulated material possessions. It was like doing an archaeological study on myself. I could ‘date’ many of the layers of my stuff, going back to when I was a toddler (which is when I started living in this house).

The most abrupt transition was between the layer from right before I went to Asia, and the layer from when I returned to Asia. That is partially because that is the longest period of time (almost four years) that I have been away from this house. The layers before and I after I lived in Mountain View were also distinct.

When my dad or I find old stuff in the basement that we remember but haven’t seen in years, we call it an ‘archaeological find’ (and he’s the one who started using the word ‘archaeological’ not me). Two examples of archaeological finds from my past are the 3D Taj Mahal puzzle (which was found in the basement) and these writings from when I was 7 years old (which was found in my bedroom).

Recently, we’ve were working on a household project in the basement which involved objects which might not have ever been moved since before I was born. For example, literally today (the day I starting writing the first draft, not the day this post is published) we finally got rid of some materials which were left over from the renovation – and had not been moved between the renovation and when we decided to move them a couple weeks ago. The renovation of the house happened in the early 1980s. Yeah, that stuff had been sitting there for more than 35 years. (The reason there was a time delay between when we initially moved the materials and when we finally discarded them was that we had to schedule for someone to come by our home and take them away).

I find it hard to imagine that we’ll find much in the house which has been in place since before the renovation (unless it’s fixed to a wall), but maybe something has eluded the renovators and us. But there are older layers in the sense that my parents have stuff which they’ve possessed for a lot more than 35 years. For example, during the very same project, I also found some of my mother’s really old documents, such as her graduation diploma … from her elementary school.

One thing I noticed about the archaeological layers of my material belongings is that the post-Taiwan layers were thinner than the pre-Taiwan layers. That meant that, after I returned from Taiwan, I was accumulated material belongings at a noticeably slower rate than I had before I moved to Taiwan. I had not made any conscious choices about accumulating less in the years 2014-2018. However, when I was in Taiwan, I had consciously tried to limit how much material stuff I accumulated (as I’ve described here and here), and that established habits which I guess I brought back with me to San Francisco.

I’ve noticed that a very high percentage of people who write or talk about minimalist lifestyles have made a trans-ocean move at least once in their lives. As someone who has also moved across an ocean (specifically the Pacific Ocean) this does not surprise me. When moving within the same landmass, one has the option of using a really big truck and/or multiple trips. If may be time-consuming and/or expensive, but not nearly as time-consuming or expensive as trying to ship the contents of one’s home on a trans-ocean cargo ship. Air cargo is indeed fast – and even more expensive than shipping via trans-ocean cargo ship. The costs of moving material belongings across an ocean are just so high that it really pushes one to ask whether it is really worth it to move the stuff. Paring down the material stuff becomes a more starkly obvious way to cut costs when loading it all in a car/truck is not an option.

Something that I noticed as I went through a lot of my old things was that… I used to draw a lot of doodles and write a lot of notes. I don’t mean ordinary class notes (though there were those too), I mean notes about random thoughts I had, sometimes written on the margins of my class notes, or old tests, or journals, or whatever piece of paper was available. Most of my drawings and doodles were also on margins or scratch paper, though I also found drawings which had their own dedicated piece of paper.

Sometimes I drew these doodles or wrote these notes during a class when I wasn’t interested in what the teacher was doing at the moment. Sometimes I drew these doodles or wrote these notes during my free time, when I was alone.

And sometimes, I was passing these doodles and notes to other people, usually classmates who were more interested in what I was drawing/writing than what the teacher was doing. Sometimes the contents of these notes were frivolous, and sometimes they were quite philosophical, probably more profound that what the teacher was trying to teach us at the time. I was surprised at how long, thoughtful, and reflective some of the notes I passed around were. And the notes which were shared with other people were much better written than the ones where I was just trying to quickly preserve some fleeting thought.

It was also awkward to read some of the notes given that a) I am currently confident in my aromantic identity and b) these notes were clearly written before I was aware of aromanticism. In retrospect, it’s obvious that I was aro, that I did not completely grasp the significance of crushes, and the people I was passing notes with did not understand that I did not understand the significance of crushes. It makes me wish I could go back in time and give a quick Aromanticism 101 lecture to everyone involved (including my past self).

The drawings and the notes dry up when I move to Taiwan.

When I was in Taiwan, for the first time in my life, I was not surrounded with an ample supply of scratch paper where I could draw a doodle or write a note whenever it struck my fancy. And what little scratch paper I had available was used up practicing how to write Chinese characters.

I’m not sure, but I think it was in Taiwan that I got into the habit of jotting down scraps of thoughts onto a set of text files on my computer. And to this day, I have text files on my computer just for scribbling thoughts. They have replaced my old pieces of scratch paper.

And I did not completely stopping doodling when I was in Taiwan. For example, when I hiked Yushan (the highest mountain in Taiwan), I sketched a view of Yushan South Peak on the back of my hiking permit.

Here is my permit for hiking Yushan via Paiyun Shelter (I covered my legal name with white)

And here is my sketch of Yushan South Peak on the other side of the permit. I sketched this at the very place I saw this scenery.

Yet, even after I returned to San Francisco, and I had an abundance of paper for writing notes and making doodles, I never picked up the habit of doing it on physical paper again. Drawing/doodling in particular has faded away as a hobby. It was only when I looked through my old things that I realized just how much drawing I did in an earlier time in my life (yes, I did decide to keep my favorites).

And now, instead of writing notes for classmates, I write notes for this very blog. Yes, I think this blog might be an evolution of the notes I used to pass around with classmates. The notes I write here are even longer, more thought out, and a lot more edited that any notes I informally passed around on pieces of paper, and they are read by a lot more people.

So, to answer the question in the title – “where did the notes go?” – they came here. Here are the notes which do not fit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.