n. the desire to hold on to time as it passes, like trying to keep your grip on a rock in the middle of a river, feeling the weight of the current against your chest while your elders float on downstream, calling over the roar of the rapids, “Just let go—it’s okay—let go.”
I’d like to call this unwelcome winter episode in Berlin now as ‘hot chocolate weather’, and without fail, the feeling of nostalgia always comes with it.
Today, I finally got down to doing my spring cleaning and it’s quite terrifying how much stuff I have accumulated within two years. I threw and gave away a lot of things before I moved out of the Philippines, and seeing as I have to move out soon, I will have to let go of a lot of things again. I find it terrifying how we are always accumulating stuff. I came to Berlin with nothing but the things in my huge red suitcase and now, just a month short of my two-year anniversary here, I have stuff that fill that same suitcase and a huge closet to the brim.
I’ve met people who have lived with just a suitcase of stuff and I always had this romantic notion that I could do it. I’ve done it before; I would have to do it again; but it would always be the same cycle of accumulating stuff I don’t need or even want long enough and then give it away only to accumulate more stuff all over again. Humanity inherently comes with that flawed intrinsic need to possess something, anything, everything. You’ve probably felt the desire to hold on to time as it passes – and certainly that great longing to be in a moment that has passed and to experience it all raw once more. It doesn’t help that we always romanticise the past.
I myself collect a lot of memorabilia. In an inexplicable desire to immortalise a memory, I started writing journals when I was eight. I reread some of them a decade on and they were mostly of no worth: old movie plots, books I read, childhood crushes. Memories, like everything else, are relative. I ended up throwing a lot of ‘rubbish’ then, like I did today, yet there are some things I know for sure I will always hold on to.
I am an avid collector of postcards and handwritten letters. It doesn’t matter that I never met the person who sent me the postcard or that it may never again cross my mind that out there is a woman in Tenerife setting her table for dinner, exactly the way it looked in the photo she once sent a stranger. To me, postcards and letters are treasure chests forever sealed – I am never going to get anything else from them other than the story that was written there.
Travel knick-knacks? I keep the guidebooks and maps I’ve used, public transport tickets, museum tickets, and even restaurant napkins with the name of the place printed on it. And yes, I collect the currency as well. Don’t we all?
I also find so much beauty in the fallen that I leaves, rocks, sticks, pine cones, and random things I find on my walks. I dry flowers too. On a rather queer note, I also collect beer caps. I got the idea from a good friend of who I met on a beer fest in Berlin. I love a good beer and a lot of my most poignant and spontaneous moments involved beer. I just didn’t anticipate I’d be exploring beer so much.
And let’s not forget all the digital trash – unfinished stories, photos I never sorted through, chat threads, old reservation confirmations.
I guess that’s all just a part of being human, and maybe it’s supposed to be this way. In the end, we want our stories – or even just fragments of it to remain long after we’re gone. Or it’s really all just anchorage – a way of holding on to time. Humans are quite unique in the sense that we gain satisfaction out of collecting things purely by seeking and owning them.
What about you? What things do you collect? Why do you collect them?