As far as I can tell I have about a million photos, just in my room. And 20 times more on my laptop and two external hard drives. Oh, and on my phone. And on about 3 SD cards. I guess you could say I’m a visual person.
What occurs to me as I sort through the physical photos is how much I enjoy touching them and deciding if I want to keep them or not. Putting them in piles, tossing some into the trash, then maybe retrieving one or two from there. I go from a stack so tall it threatens to topple to one no thicker than a Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman novel.
And I am filled with satisfaction.
I do not get this same high from sorting through my virtual pile of photos. I never feel like I’m complete, or that I’m doing it right. Didn’t I just put this one in the trash? Or did I move it to another folder? Maybe it’s on my desktop. It’s maddening. And yet I feel like it should be the same.
But underneath all of that the underlying cause of the distress is the fear that I will delete the wrong photos.
I am attached. I loathe to admit it.
This process, the counting and cataloging and eventual purging is revealing all my neurotic tendencies. Why are photos so precious? What if they all just disappeared? What am I truly holding onto?
Memories? Evidence of a life lived? Proof of something?
Is that what all stuff is? Is that why we hold onto things from our past? I think maybe that’s one reason. I also think guilt holds objects in place longer than they need to be. And lack, fear of never having enough. Our stuff tells our story, too. It communicates to others who we are by the selection of items we choose to live with. It’s more than just your style.
But I digress, back to the endless stacks of photos.
It hits me as I paw through one box in particular. Most of the photos are from past work events from a company and job that defined me for a while and definitely shaped my business acumen and practices. I loved working for this company and the people I worked with. We traveled to Hawaii and San Diego and San Antonio. We had fun trainings in Atlanta and parties locally. Yet I can only name maybe half the people in the photos. The photos don’t tell the story as richly as my memories. I can let them go.
I’ve also noticed that I am quick to toss photos of things that I’m sure I felt were amazing and new to me at the time, but I have since seen or experienced whatever it is over and over again. A tiny alligator in a pond at the Kennedy Space Center 15 years ago looks trivial and silly next to the up close and personal friends I’ve made at the Orlando Wetlands. I am comparing my past to my present. Healthy? Normal?
This shows me that the photo was a novelty, not a memory. I also can’t bear to keep photos of animals in the zoo or Sea World. My sensibilities and education about such places won’t allow me to enjoy them.
I am questioning my own photo motives.
Mostly I think I just really like documenting things. I don’t know why. I’m not sure it’s just for me. I like to share.
I will continue to thin the photo herd for eventual scanning. Photo books are in my future, but will I be able to let go of the actual photos once they’re scanned? I guess we’ll see.
I’m just grateful I have not committed to counting everything I have digitally. Although that may be a worthy endeavor.
Makes me sleepy just thinking about it. Let’s deal with the tangible stuff first.