[COMMENTARY] Collections


I still remember the day:  November 22, 1987, my 14th birthday.  I was a young teenager obsessed with sports.  Growing up in a rural area, my biggest source of daily sports news was the newspaper and the two minute sports telecast on the six o’clock news.  Forget ESPN – this was pre-cable TV for me.  I think we got 1 channel over the air, maybe two if I could talk my younger sister into holding the rabbit ears just right.

This was one of those gifts I never saw coming.  No clue.  Hadn’t put it on any list.  What was it?  A subscription to Sports Illustrated.  I waited anxiously each Thursday to get home from school and read the latest issue.  Back then, Sports Illustrated was the giant in sports publishing.  Pre-internet, pre-ESPN The Magazine, before sports talk was on every station, I now had up-to-the-date sports articles sent to me every week.

Another perk?  The annual swimsuit edition!  I remember being more than a little disappointed that my parents confiscated it before I even had a look at the cover.  I remember having to tell the guys that no, I wouldn’t be able to bring it to school after all.  Even the disappointment of missing the swimsuit edition didn’t diminish my enthusiasm for the magazine.

After a few months, I had a nice pile of the magazines started.  Miraculously, I hadn’t lost or destroyed one.  So, I decided to become a collector.  I’d never really collected anything before, so it seemed like a good idea.

Fast forward 20+ years.  In my attic are boxes.  And more boxes.  Of Sports Illustrated magazines.  That’s right, I’ve accumulated 21 years, 5 months worth of magazines.  Well over 1,000 issues filed neatly away in cardboard boxes.  Since I started, I’ve moved 13 times.  Somehow through all of the address changes, I still have every issue of the magazine since November 1987.  In fact the image attached to this post is the first issue I received.

There’s something about a big collection like this.  Most of the time I don’t notice it.  The boxes just sit in the attic and don’t bother anyone.  I add a box every now and then.  But when you move 13 times in 21 years, the boxes have to be moved.  Large, bulky, and very heavy, this collection is the worst thing to move.   Usually I recruit some friends to help me move,  and by the time we uncover the dusty boxes way in the back of the attic, whatever frosty beverage and free pizza I lured them with to help me move has lost its appeal and no one wants to move the boxes.  So, it’s usually left to me.  All through the lugging of those boxes, I’m thinking – “why do I keep these things around?”

I have no idea why I keep them around. A few of them may be worth something, but probably not much.  As a collection, they are incomplete because SI started publishing in the 1950’s.  So why do I do it?  It’s just something that I do.  Why should I stop now?

Lately, I’ve been talking to people who have collections of their own.  Not physical collections, like magazines or Star Wars figurines or baseball cards.  I’m talking about collections of things from their past that they can’t let go of.

What are you collecting?

For many it’s a former boss who stabbed you in the back.  It may be an old relationship that ended badly and you still can’t let it go. Maybe it’s an issue with a parent that never got resolved and still hangs around like a dark cloud over your relationship.  For others it’s a collection of bad decisions they made.  They can’t forgive themselves and move on.

We can hold on to positive memories as well.  We’ve all spent time reminiscing with friends about the “good old” days.  I remember an episode of Frazier where Woody (the bartender from the Cheer’s days) comes to visit Frazier in Seattle.  The two have a good visit, re-living the glory days back at the bar in Boston.  As the visit wears on, however, each of them get tired of talking about the past.  In fact, separately each wants to end the visit because they have moved on with their lives and they are no longer the same person as they were in the “good old days”.

In the end, they parted friends, realizing that their relationship would never be like it was back then, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t think fondly of those times.  Simply, they had moved on.

Like my boxes in the attic, we may have it buried pretty deep.  We may go weeks, months, or even years without seeing it.  But sooner or later, it resurfaces and we have to deal with it.

So, what to do with the collections from our past? For some, it may mean they need to clean out the attic – deal with the “stuff” that’s been building up over the years.  It’s not pretty either.  It’s tough, dirty work.   That may mean making a tough phone call or two.  It c0uld mean making the decision to focus on the future instead of the past.  It may be realizing that we can’t do anything about the past, that the future is the only thing we can change.

As for me, I haven’t decided yet what to do with my magazines.  I just know that the older I get, the less I feel like moving them around.  It’s just not worth it.  I’m not going to read them again anyway.  It’s old news, I’ve moved on.

P.S. – when I turned 18 my dad gave me a stack of the magazines, the swimsuit editions that he and my mom had confiscated.  He’d held on to them because he wanted to make sure I completed my collection.   I never looked at them, I swear!

Image credit:  Sports Illustrated.  Reposted by permission of ReadyAimLife.com.

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