stalinist purges of personal possessions and facebook friends

So I got this facebook message from a friend who purged their facebook friends list of all people they no longer wished to have any contact with. Those douchebags from high school, random people you talked to one night but never again, and other such useless acquaintances who clog up your friends feed with their stupid comments and pictures of their equally stupid offspring. It sounded like a brilliant idea, but one I’ve found that I’ve had difficulty following through with myself.

Like the narcissistic personality disorder sufferer that I, as a natural blogger, am, I’ve been forced to connect it to a larger issue in my life. In recent conversations I’ve had with this friend, I expressed my desires to move away for a year, or two, or three, or more. Probably London, or anywhere else in the UK, since I am a citizen and I already know how to navigate the Tube. This friend expressed similar desires, and explained that they would want to sell everything, leaving no ties, no baggage. It is like purging one’s digital friends. I love this idea, but perhaps it’s an extra dose of idealism and a dose short of reality.

As someone who collects books like wrinkles, I can never, ever part with them. I’ll save an essay on my unconditional love for my library for another time (see Walter Benjamin’s Unpacking my Library,” so amazing). Each book is such a part of me that getting rid of a book is tantamount to throwing away family photographs. But maybe it is time to Botox those books. I’ve come to force myself to rationalize that they are just possessions. As my friend suggested, if I really want to embrace all that life offers, I need to really, really let myself go. I need to be able to let go of my possessions. I understand this. When I’m travelling, everything is so fleeting, that I easily pick up a book from a used shop, read it, fall in love with it, but discard it out of necessity. Love ’em and leave ’em. No baggage. Just the memory. It will all be in my head and photo albums. If I do forget, then any physical semblance of that lost memory is simply pastiche junk.

I feel so free travelling. When I got home from my last adventure, I remember seeing all my stuff, and while I did have an initial reaction of “Oh, home,” that feeling also dragged me back into the reality of who I was before the trip. As if all my wonderful experiences and all the glorious changes I felt ready for were null and void. The thing I love about travelling really centres on not having any baggage; on not knowing anyone. No one has any preconceived notions of who you are, so you are infinitely free to be whomever you wish to be. Whether that is a fantasy or your “real” self is up to you. I remember getting home, seeing my family and my possessions and instantly being grounded again. It was wonderful at first, but then a bitter taste hit my mouth. I was right back to the grudge of reality, of everything tying me down. Everything I owned, even my beloved books, felt like shackles.

I certainly can’t live without any possessions while I’m at home not travelling. I’ve decided to come to a fair and even compromise. Firstly, I own somewhere in the neighbourhood of three to four hundred books. This is what comes of working at two bookstores and spending six years in university. I know many people who have tons and tons more books than that, but those are usually acquired over more than my own meagre twenty-five years. Keep in mind, all my childhood books were taken from me and passed onto younger cousins (except Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, that one survived my mother’s purge of the mid-nineties). So this is really more a collection of only ten years.

The other night, I started going through each shelf. I was ruthless. My stipulation was that a book would be purged if: a) I’ve read it and have no emotional attachment to it, or b) I bought it and in all honesty have to admit I’m never ever going to read it unless I go to prison and have all the time in the world. I will admit that this forced-confinement scenario is one I find myself occassionally fantasizing about due to a tremendous amount of repressed guilt at never reading all the books I buy. Of course, a book that met these two requirements stands a chance to be saved if it is valuable or makes me feel smarter simply by being on my shelf. I’ve rounded up about a hundred books that will be sent to a Gulag of yet-to-be-determined fate. I feel relieved. Lighter. However, they haven’t left my house yet, so I will let you know when I finally make the clean break.

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