I keep a box of moments.
It’s the shoebox from the heels I bought for my senior prom. As I was packing up to leave my apartment, I took it down and slid it into a milk crate. I gave it a few wary looks, because, of all the things it holds, some of them are love letters.
I thought “I can’t go back there right now. I’m not strong enough.”
I started sliding moments into the box the summer after my senior year of high school. Brochures from places I’d been, cards from my parents (they’re obsessed with holiday cards), movie ticket stubs, just everything went into the box. I did it throughout college. You never know what will be significant. Right?
Twenty minutes after I packed the box away, twenty minutes of calling myself a coward and saying, “You’re going to put it into storage all summer so the least you could do is just crack it open,” finally got to me.
I pried off the lid.
And do you know what I found?
Yeah, there were love letters. A lot more than I remember, to be honest. Apparently we were pretty prolific letter-writers. Can I be proud of that? But beyond the letters were other moments, moments I had forgotten about.
The moment I saw Maya Angelou read her work and speak about how to be a rainbow in somebody’s cloud. The moment I went to New York City for the first time and rode the subway. The moment I first joined the Vagina Monologues here on campus, and was so nervous for my first show that I thought I was going to pass out onstage. I kept doing squats in heels backstage so I wouldn’t lock up my knees.
The moment I saw Dr. Jane Goodall speak from across an auditorium, and swelled with happiness because she’s my mother’s hero. I called my mother afterwards, and told her all about it. The moment I became a Peer Advisor. The moment I left my job. The moment my coworkers wrote me a note to tell me how much they love me. The moment my sister wrote me a letter to tell me how proud of me she was.
And at this point, I’m bawling like a baby, see?
I don’t know why I had forgotten all of these moments. The little moments, the moments where I laughed and forgot to be self-conscious, the moments where I called a friend and cried and couldn’t remember how to breathe because it hurt too much. These moments made up my college career. How could I forget about them?
My plane tickets from Europe. The cork from the bottle of Bordeaux I drank in Brussels. Newspapers about Charlie Hebdo in Paris. My Vagina Monologues script from this year. My first feminist button from the Feminist Student Union. Tickets I bought to see a friend’s play. Thank you notes from former dorm residents. Piggly Wiggly name tags. My sister’s graduation announcement.
My friend’s note to me on a particularly bad day, attached to a flower, in which she said, “You are a queen, and I am honored in thy presence,” and I realized that to be admired by your friends is worth so much more than to be loved by some guy who writes you letters. I wish I could have told myself this earlier but I suppose that’s what the moments are for: so you can learn from them when you look back.
I’ll finish my minor in history on Friday, and nothing has made more sense to me this semester than the simultaneous task of analyzing the past to learn about the future. My past has been hard and bumpy, but I am proud of my scars and the hurt and the lessons that I’ve learned. I’m proud of the young woman who can finally fall asleep when she gets into bed. Maybe no one will understand how revolutionary that is for me. But I do.
My window is open, now, and a storm is rolling in. It smells like rain. The trees, the great oak trees outside my window, are swaying in the dark gray afternoon light. There is thunder somewhere.
My mother once told me that nature is cyclical. There’s a reason, she thinks, that giant trees waving in gusts of wind in a forest sound similar to waves crashing on a beach. The gentle swoosh-ing sound. It’s all connected.
It’s all connected.
I am grateful for all the silly moments I managed to remember, all the buttons I slipped into this orange shoebox, all the moments I had taken for granted from people I am blessed to have in my life. Perhaps I am even thankful, sometimes, for the love letters.
After this Friday, I will be a senior in college. I cannot wait to make more moments to laugh over, smile over, and cry over.
Though, I’m probably going to pitch the letters. They were weighing down the box too much, anyway.