All of my Downsizing posts have been a trip down memory lane. The etched baleen I gave to a family member for Christmas. It had me replaying my trip to Barrow, Alaska. Writing about my grandmother’s pins made me think, of course, of the woman herself. And all of the memories I have of her from my childhood to the last time I saw her. Almost anything can trigger a trip down memory lane. It doesn’t have to be something grand.
It can even be a used, old floppy disk mailer you’ve been holding on to since the 1990s.
In my second ever blog post, I shared how several things in my life converged such that I made the decision to change my life. I vowed to Supersize my LIFE. One of the main reasons for this conviction was the desire to spend more time writing.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. First, because I still wholly look forward to it. And, second, because the irony isn’t lost on me that, except for this blog, I have stopped writing. All my non-work time is about downsizing, writing the next post for this blog, or otherwise preparing for life on the road.
Aside from school, where I found deadlines incredible helpful, I have had two productive writing periods. The first was in the two years prior to deciding it pursue a graduate degree in writing. The second is described in that second post when I finished a mystery novel a few years back.
For those two years prior to moving to Alaska to attend graduate school, in my early 20s, I would get home from working as a receptionist at a photo studio, have dinner while watching about an hour of television. Then I would sit at my desk and write. I wasn’t in a writing group, not even sure I knew what one was. I didn’t know anyone locally who was interested in writing. So I didn’t have like-minded people to talk to about writing. This was pre-internet so the resources and opportunity for connection that exists today didn’t exist in the early 1990s.
Recently I sorted office supplies. You might remember my plan has been that for most areas of my life, I get to fill one medium-sized storage container to take. The pets get a container. This means the dog won’t take her dozen or so Halloween costumes. There is a container for exercise stuff. Another filled with holiday decorations. And so on.
The reason I was sifting through office supplies was to downsize to the one medium designated storage container for office supplies. This meant putting a lot into the garage sale or giving it to my work. As I was sorting, I came across this dandy.
Have you seen on social media a picture of something with the statement: like if you know what this is. I’ve seen water beds (my sister had one). Sony Walkman (I kept mine long after everyone moved on to the portable CD player). My find belongs on social media. If you know what this is, share and like. No doubt more recent generations will have no clue.
So there I was, a lonely little writer without any writing connections in San Diego. I’d kept in touch with friends from my NYU days through letters. Again, this was pre-email or social media. My friend, Laura, and I not only were roommates for 2 of our 4 years at NYU, we were also English / Writing majors together.
After graduation we scattered to each end of the continent but we stayed in touch. A few years later, Laura and I were bemoaning our writing lives when we came up with a brilliant, if we did say so ourselves, plan. A cross-continent writing group of 2. One of us would write the other a letter, save it to a floppy disk (another item for social media’s “like if you ever used one of these”), add the latest thing we were working on, put the floppy in the mailer and let the US Postal service do the rest. We reused those mailers until they were practically pulp with pulling off labels and adding new ones, with layer upon layer of tape.
It was always such a thrill to see the cardboard square show up in my mailbox. I knew I was in for an evening of good reading and feeling part of something, feeling connected to another word lover. I’d read and comment on her work then send the floppy back with the comments, a letter from me and writing of my own.
We did this for two years. We even graduated to the 3½ inch floppy disks which were sent in smaller mailers. I left San Diego for graduate school in Alaska in 1993. And within a year or two, Laura also was accepted into graduate school for writing.
We don’t share writing any longer, but we have stayed friends for more than 30 years, since our days as freshman at NYU when we were lucky enough to end up assigned to Room 411 and 413 in Weinstein Hall. We started out as next door neighbors. It was the mid-1980s. I have the pictures with filled asymmetrical 1980s hair, puffy shoulder pads, Risky Business sunglasses and many more embarrassing things.
Writing and writing groups (even the smallest of them) have been an important part of my life. With so many other things to concentrate on and figure out and plan for on this adventure, I hadn’t given much thought to what my writing life on the road will look like. Not, that is, until I came across the floppy disc mailer.
That is one more thing to add to the list of things I’m going to have to figure out along the way.
Nostalgia wasn’t reason enough to keep the mailer, obviously. But it’s possible it can fulfill its purpose. Almost. It’s doubtful it will ever again be used to ship a floppy disk. But today it sits at my eBay shipping station. It awaits the perfect, albeit tiny, item to be tucked inside, sealing again and be put in the hands of the US Postal services. It awaits its call to duty, to carry to a downsized item to its new owner.