Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I had an epiphany the other day.

It wasn't one of those life-changing epiphanies, just a tiny one, and one that will probably make you wonder that I hadn't realized it before, but here it is, for what it's worth:

Just because I've had something for a long time doesn't mean I have to have it forever.

This came to me when I was culling my files at work. I've already done a quick run-through, getting rid of obviously unneeded material (exams from years ago, thank-you notes for writing recommendations from students whose names don't ring a bell, ancient grade rosters), and now I'm doing round two, where I look at and consider the papers before consigning them to the recycling bin.

When I moved to Nashville, I had every intention of putting in my stint as a non-tenure-track lecturer until I had finished my dissertation, and then I would go on the market and seek a tenure-track position. So I brought with me all the material that would help me in that quest: class notes, exams and papers I'd written, lots of books.

Along the way, I discovered that despite the negatives (higher work load, lower salary, a dismissive attitude from certain members of the faculty), I really liked not entering the tenure race, and the importance of all that stuff has disappeared.

Still, it's hard to throw out a paper that a professor thought was worth publishing, or an exam that I was particularly proud of, or the meticulous note-cards from my Italian Linguistics class, such as:


vowel + velar (k, g)/nasal (m, n) + o/a: first vowel must be a
  • pampinu(m) > pampano
  • selinu(m) > sedano
  • Hieronymu(m) > Gerolamo

I must have known what it meant sometime and I took such care over it. Can I just toss it?

That's when the epiphany came.

If I'd known what direction my life was going to take 28 years ago, I would happily have tossed that card. At that point it had no sentimental value. I haven't looked at those cards in the 28 years I've been in this office except to open the note-card box to remind myself what was in it. Just because I've had it all these years doesn't mean it has any worth.

(But I still haven't tossed that card.)


  1. So timely are these words, so true are these words.

  2. Tracy,
    I so relate to this. I can get very sentimental about things from my past, little things that represent success I experienced or dreams I used to have. Often they mean nothing in my current place in life, but remind me of who I used to be. I'm really trying to live in the present.
    Great seeing you in NYC, by the way. :)

  3. I'll remember that, Mary--by tossing out those relics, I'll be living in the present.
    Great seeing you, too!

  4. Letting go of those is kind of like letting go of the past, and that's so hard to do. I also want to de-clutter my life, though, and that means getting rid of many such things. Good luck, Tracy.

  5. I bought a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner and I've scanned everything I'm attached to that I don't really need. That includes my Latin vocabulary flashcards, also meticulously created. After I finished, my son developed an interest in Latin. I stuck all the PDFs in one place online, gave him the password, and he's using them. I'm in favor of continuously evaluating what you really need, but I also recognize that if I did all that work decades earlier, it's hard to throw it away. Scanning allows me to get rid of the paper, make as many copies as I want of the resulting PDFs, and have less clutter. Maybe someday I'll get rid of the PDFs as well; maybe not.

  6. I think I'm often more attached to the physical object than the information it contains, unfortunately! But I've found good homes for a lot of it.