Getting Lost in Documentation

[Photo: a collage of some of my New Zealand photos from Dec. 2015 to give an overview of my time there]

Ok, so this blog post did not grow from a Post-a-Day Prompt, nor was it inspired by a wild and wonderful adventure. I don’t quite know where it’s going to go; I’ll figure that out along the way, I guess that’s how some authors work right? They don’t always know where their characters will end up, they don’t know what the grand finale will be, it’s just as much a surprise to them as it is to us, the reader.

I’ve been wondering for a couple of days what my next blog post will be about, I was starting to worry that without some amazing travel experience, I have nothing to say. When I started this blog, it wasn’t about that. Truthfully, when I started this blog, I was struggling to internally process some things, (mainly the whole Medical Photographer opportunity/moving to Foshan on my own), and I was able to just write and write with relative ease. I’d sit at my desk in work, and, shamefully, with such little photographic work left at the end of the academic year, I was able to spend some of my time tapping away at my school laptop and post a “blog-a-day”. Now I’m not at work, I’m sat on a friend’s sofa, surrounded by no one and nothing apart from my music, I’ve been struggling for inspiration, and the words haven’t been flowing as easy as before. My last post was easy, Thailand. Who wouldn’t be able to write a (relatively long) blog post about 5 days in that beautiful country? This one however, is very different. This one is much more personal, and goes back to the reason I started this blog. I’m trying to process something in my head, trying to work out what it means and talk it through with myself. I hope that somewhere along the way of writing this blog post, I’ll be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and it will make much more sense to me. Like an author unsure of what will be written on the last page, I hope to find the answers, or at least make more sense of it, along the way.

So let’s get down to it. I’m hyping this up to be some giant, worrying, life changing post. It’s not. Honestly, it’s probably going to be of very little interest to my few readers (shout out to Nana and Dad!). It’s simply going to be “what it says on the tin” so to speak: Charlie Parker – From head to web. I was walking from the metro the other day, and was thinking about this blog, how I started to record and document my inner thoughts, much like a diary, but I have one of those, a journal of some sorts, I’ve hardly written in it this year, I think there are roughly only 20 entries since August 5th 2015. So I have both, a journal/diary, and blog which I think will soon overtake my “journal”. The journal is obviously a place for more personal aspects of my life, thoughts, and emotions, and the blog, for more general thoughts and stories. So that’s 2, 2 places/ways I document my life. A 3rd is probably the most obvious of all, photography, taking pictures. I document life, just as everyone else does, through a camera, whether it be a camera on the back of a phone (or front for those all-important selfies), a top quality DSLR, or even a film camera, for those who still love and respect the original ways. Ok, so that’s not too odd right? That’s not an idiosyncratic trait…

Idiosyncratic is a new entry into my, somewhat shamefully limited, vocabulary: “a gesture, mannerism, or characteristic which is unique to an individual.” I really like this word. Maybe it’s because I’m currently reading, and almost finishing the 3rd book of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, which, as the title suggests, is about a group of children, a society of people who have their own unique, peculiar, and magical idiosyncrasies. But, stepping out of the world of Miss Peregrine, Jacob and Emma, (if you haven’t read these books I highly suggest putting it at the top of your To-do List, the movie adaptation is out in September), by definition, everyone has their own unique idiosyncrasies. They may not be as magical as Emma’s ability to flicker fire from her fingertips, but they’re there, and it’s fascinating to spot them in strangers, in dear friends, in family. They’re what make us the beautiful unique individuals we are, some may be a little on the boring side, for example, when I looked up the official definition for this new word, it told me that Albert Einstein famously had many, and one was that he spoke to his cat. Honestly? Who doesn’t speak to their pets? Sorry Einstein, you’re not that special on this one!

I’ll tell you why and how I came to stumble upon this new word of mine. I mentioned 3 ways in which I record and document my every day, not all that exciting, life: journal, blog, photography. It doesn’t stop there however, social media is one we’re all guilty of, and I’m not just talking Facebook, I’m talking Snapchat, Instagram, twitter, WeChat, and all the other platforms out there. So that makes it 4 (if we keep social media as one neat little package). As my family and friends now, I have been keeping as up to date as I can, with photo-albums/scrapbooks. I have 2 or 3 at home from 2014-2015, and I’m almost on my 3rd from 2015-2016. I keep everything, and I mean everything, not just ticket stubs, but receipts, maps, leaflets, stickers, cards, the tag that came on my leather bag, etc etc etc. The list could literally go on forever. At least with my scrapbooks, I have somewhere functional to put them. I don’t even want to get into how many boxes, folders and files of such “memorabilia” I have up in the loft at 36. It’s actually quite shameful, I have my 1st ever, and last swipe card from Emrys ap Iwan, I have a bottle from a birthday me and Nat shared in a tepee at Reasheath College many years ago, I have a 5cm note Aysha wrote to me in English class one time. It’s crazy. Why? Why do I horde, why do I feel the need to keep everything. I read somewhere that people who document their lives so extensively, and keep so much memorabilia from the past, aren’t actually living their lives, they’re just stuck looking back at what once was. I truly hope that isn’t true for me. The way I like/hope to see it, is that I value all these experiences and memories that life graces us with, no matter how big or small, and I can’t bear to part with them, I’m so thankful for each and every aspect of my life, each memory, each opportunity, that I like to savour them, look back, and appreciate them all over again.

I was always awful at tidying my bedroom. That was no secret. I whole heartily blame it on this obsession I have to appreciate the past and revel in memories. I’d find something down the back of a draw, or crammed under my bed and sit there reminiscing, remembering every emotion, feeling, and activity that goes with the small trinket. Going through this process, keeping everything, really does mean that I have a great memory for my past, I mean, that sounds stupid. Everyone has a good memory of their past, but I’d be able to tell you where I was, who I was with, what the weather was like, what we were wearing, all form looking at a ticket stub, or a little fairy ornament. I don’t know how useful, or healthy that is, but I can do it. Writing this, it does sound like I’m failing to live my life, look forward, and go on because my head and things are so stuck firmly in the past. But again, I truly hope that isn’t so…

So, again, let’s recap: journal, blog, social media, scrapbook, boxes of junk/memorabilia… Also, another to add to the list is my academic diary that has saved me more than I can count and kept me in check this year at DHSZ. It’s very well organised, colour coordinated, and it’ a beautiful thing. Even though I am now not in work, and have no deadlines to meet, no schedule to live by, I’m still making entries. I’m still writing down “Meet Leah at Aeon”, “management came around about wasps”, etc. Why? WHY PARKER?! What is your obsession with recording and documenting every small aspect of your life?! It’s really not that fascinating enough to warrant this obsession. Is it boredom? Am I keeping such a close record of my events and movements because there isn’t much going on at the moment? Do I worry that if I don’t document something, in at least one way, it didn’t really count? Who am I living my life for? Me, or the pages of a book? I seriously hope it is the former.

I’ve gone off topic here. Basically, the other day, 1825788632I realised that I have a pile of books which I use to document various things: a journal, a scheduling diary, a scrapbook, a book which I’ve been writing down quotes from a different book I’m currently reading (About Looking – by John Berger), a sketchbook for my limited creative side, a general notes book, a small notebook for my travelling notes. (How many times did I just write the word notes?). I was almost ashamed, embarrassed, and confused when I made that list in my head. Then, as my generation solves all its problems, I turned to google. I asked:

If I have an obsession with documenting everyday life events, what does this mean?

Some responses came back with 3 little letters: OCD. This is not me. I do not have OCD, I know people with OCD, and to even assume or think for a second that this is the cause of my documentation habits, is an insult to them. I don’t feel anxious or overwhelmed if I miss an entry. I feel a bit shitty if I get behind on my scrapbook (which I am more behind than ever on right now – I’m talking 6 months, soon to be 7…), but I don’t feel sick to my stomach, I don’t feel suffocated, so no, that result google spat out was not correct. The next one I read though, was maybe more accurate. It too did offer up the OCD reason, but then continued on to state that if it is not a physical and emotional need, then it is probably most likely just an idiosyncratic trait; just a quirky personal characteristic. Nothing more, nothing less…

I guess it’s just something I will either have to ween myself out of, or accept and deal with for the rest of my life. Maybe one day my life will become so overwhelmingly busy that I just simply don’t have time to go from notebook to notebook finding the right one to write the relevant piece of information. But until then, I don’t mind it. I like to be able to look back at things, our past is what shapes us and makes us, so why not look back and appreciate it, see where we came from? I’ll end this with a lyric I have loved since I was a teenager, and it’s still one of my favourites:

The past is only the future with the lights on…

One thought on “Getting Lost in Documentation

  1. Mary teal says:

    Just keep writing and remembering…..I wish I had things to remind me of days gone by… will always have your things to bring your memories to life xx


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