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.)