#648: My Life in Paper

June 17th, 2016

I was proud of the story I wrote about the linear accelerator, although that was cut some when Fermilab never built it.

I hadn’t thought about the little girl with Down syndrome in years. What a smile she had. How proud she was of her swimming.

Oh god, the circus story. That damn elephant.

It was good to go through my life in paper.

I’m getting rid of my storage space. I got it in 2014 to store a then-extra couch and wingback chair, but took advantage of it to not deal with aspects of my mess.

The pile of tax paperwork from 2011? Throw it in the space. My DVDs from when DVDs were a thing? Chuck ‘em next to the cassettes, bowling ball and Shabbos candles.

Now the couch and chair are in my living room and I’m starting the tedious process of spending nights alone in a storage space sorting through box after box, tossing what I don’t need.

For an ex-reporter, this includes a massive crate of old newspapers and notepads.

For a good heap of my 20s, I was a newspaper reporter. It was my job and my identity. I hated it and loved it and hated it and was it. Buzzing around suburban dailies, hoping and praying for a foothold that would get me to the Trib, the job was my life for years.

That means this old printer box of increasingly ratty newsprint and those pocket-thin reporters notebooks was my life. It was me.

I like a life that yellows like newsprint, one that shows its age and datedness. Everything I write on this site is as crisp and high-res as the moment I typed it two, three, four years ago. There’s no context, no Bush-era news story next to words I wrote, no “For Better or For Worse” a few pages later in the days before the strip went to perma-rerun.

I like the gray hairs that have been popping up since I was 20. I like a little gravitas.

It’s sad to toss these memories though, even if I keep a copy or two. There will never be another Kane County Chronicle of Nov. 23, 2004. There will never be another Aurora Beacon-News of Sept. 19, 2009.

There will never be another reporter’s notepad where I made that particular doodle, grabbed that particular quote or just wrote “BORED BORED BORED” in that particular handwriting at that particular municipal subcommittee planning meeting.

Years of my existence in stories no one but I have thought about in ages, notes no one but I have ever read. A giant box whittled down to a smaller box of memories to be packed away until my grandkids debate whether to toss them after I’m gone (that’s not an allusion to my death — I plan to be the first centenarian on Mars).

It feels good to be getting rid of the storage space. I bottled up a lot of my life there, kept it to the side to be reintegrated later.

I guess now’s later. I get to have my history back, at least the parts I need.

That’s what was both nice and sad about sorting through my paper past. It was nice to keep only what I wanted, throw away the bits that were unneeded or troublesome. The printer box was big. Heaps and heaps of weight that I realized I no longer needed to carry.

The past heartaches were now old letters. The past stresses were now old notepads. The past burdens and troubles that kept me up nights and made me wail at the world were and always had been light little sheets, easily tossed aside if only I had known then what I know now.

I feel better shedding my papers. I feel light, free and ready to focus on the future I’m planning.

Now, figuring out what to do with four boxes of 1990s Spider-Man comics, that’s going to take a little thinking.

A mysterious woman in a storage locker

A former coworker hunts magic

When layoffs took my former boss

When Michael Ferro laid off the Sun-Times photo staff

When Michael Ferro made the Tribune “tronc”

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