Sunday, April 19, 2009

Filing Cabinets at Midnight

Organizing a filing cabinet is never something that should be done late at night. But I promised myself I was going to get through my to-do list this week, which included shoveling out the masses of crumpled paper of various sizes and organizing them into miscellaneous piles on my living room floor.
There's something exhilarating about organizing. Yes, this is partly the ravings of an OCD mind, but I love the feeling of knowing that, simply by a little effort of my own limbs, I have pushed back the chaos encroaching on the edge of my reality and reclaimed a little peace for the moment. Plus, once the filing cabinet is organized, my husband will have no excuse for keeping piles of papers coupons, overdue bills and receipts on the counter in the kitchen. Not that he needs an excuse to do so. But we're talking about moral justice here.
Regardless, organizig the filing cabinet was an emotional experience for me tonight. Every little thing I placed into its respective pile held some degree of value.
There were the career assessment survey results from the tests I took in high school. It's funny to look back now and realize what a different person I am now from that chipper, punk-hippy member of the God Squad I was in those days, and yet how much I've stayed the same. These results emphasized my social personality, my love for helping people, and my extreme phobia of anything to do with math or logic. They suggested I pursue a career as a journalist, or a school counselor. Looking back at those results and suggestions I'm hit with a sudden rush of vertigo, as if I am looking back at my potential way back then from halfway up a very steep cliff that I have inched up day by day, until I can feel the thinning air whistling against the bare rocks around me and the only company is the occassional bird that darts past. True, I suppose I still do have a lot of potential. I am only 23 after all. Wrinkles and gray hairs, for the most part, have a few more years to lay dormant. But it's amazing to think how every decision I've made along the way, whether for the right or wrong reason, has had irreversable consequences. Choosing to major in English, for example has practically cut me out of the running for a job in any kind of social work or psychiatry. It's not that I regret that. But it delivers a sort of sense of impending claustrophobia to realize that, like a reverse funnel, the higher I climb, the narrower the way becomes.
And then there's all these bills stubs. So that's where all our money went! Aha!
Notes, drawings, bits of stories and poems... tossed haphazardly into the bottom drawer of our filing cabinet, they may look to anyone else like a bunch of trash. But to me they're goldn. They're an identity that has taken 23 years to form, and generations before that to prepare. And, neatly slotted into thier individual folders, I feel like I have just organized my own soul, categorized it into precise definitions and clean-cut memories. There is quite simply nothing like it.