My Thoughts: Do Memories Fade Like Photographs?

I am going to veer slightly off topic to talk about a few things that have dominated my thoughts over the last few weeks: clearing out, getting rid of stuff, downsizing, reducing my personal belongings (that's one thing) and the lifespan of memories.

In preparation for our (temporary) move to Amsterdam, I knew I had to reduce the belongings I would leave behind in the incredibly cheap storage facility that is my parents' loft.

Some of these belongings are very personal and just as I did before our RTW trip, I found it incredibly hard to make judgment calls on what should stay or what should go. When I was in a good, productive mood I would sing The Clash song to myself and sometimes flip a coin. When I was feeling tired and emotionally drained I would spend minute after minute debating a birthday card from years ago from a friend I've lost touch with. I was indecisive and hesitant and a little scared. What if I was throwing away memories I'd never be able to recall again?

And the I had to face the task I put off last year. Five shoe boxes full of photographs. Photos which document most of the last ten years of my life in painfully embarrassing and wonderfully intricate detail.My parents have been generous allowing me space to store things I know I'll want in the future, though could easily do with out. I'd love to say I'm a true nomad and everything I own comes with me on every step of my journey but that's not true. My Mum was great in reassuring me that I should keep certain things. A box of the diaries I wrote for ten years, books I spent small fortunes on at Uni, beautiful vintage dresses my Nan gave me. I'm lucky I have a place to store them. But I simply couldn't justify keeping five shoe boxes of disorganised, mostly badly exposed photos and old negatives. I had to take action.

And so I sorted. I organised. I put some aside to send to my friends. I put some in an album.

And then I shredded.

I shredded hundreds of photos. I perversely watched my face and the faces of my loved ones and the ones I used to love turn into cheerleader pom pom fodder.

It was upsetting, it was disturbing but I still maintain it was necessary. You see this was all pre-digital age, though my camera habits were the same as if I had a digital camera. I used to take 20 photos of the same thing. And then I'd get copies of the ones my friends had taken of that same thing. Nobody needs that many photos. This exercise allowed me to pick my favourites; the ones that struck an immediate cord with me, the ones that took me back to another time and place, the ones that roused feelings I'd not felt for years. Those are the photos worth keeping.

And yet a small part of me is still worried I did the wrong thing, because it can't be undone. What if I was shredding the only prompts of already fading memories along with those photos?The only way I can attempt to soothe my persistent anxiety about this is to tell myself that it was important in order to indirectly make room for more memories on this adventure of mine. But I suppose that's the saddest thing of all, why can't we hold on to an infinite number of memories?

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before putting down some roots with her Australian partner and having a baby boy in July 2015. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her son around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+

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