There are so many ways to feel like a new person. Some dive into the surf at sunrise on New Years Day. Some start each Monday morning with a list of the ways they are going to be a changed being. One dear friend of mine periodically burns all of his superfluous possessions in an effort to start afresh. (The last of these I wouldn’t suggest if you live in the suburbs; it tends to freak out the neighbours, particularly if you accompany such a ritual with copious bourbon consumption and questionable dancing. But it works for him.)
For me, that feeling of starting again came from an orange bin-bag full of women’s magazines.
If I wasn’t such a neat-freak, I could quite easily become a feature of an episode of ‘Hoarders.’ I find ridiculous sentimentality in items; troll dolls, and paper cranes, and ticket stubs, and trinkets bought in Malaysian markets, and letters from people I’ll never speak to again. I’ve a shelf full of stuffed animals with whom I can’t bear to part, and I’ve kept all of the religious iconography that accompanies a Catholic upbringing, despite my now-avowed atheism. I don’t want to part with these things, and they all have their place: on pin-boards, and shelves, and windowsills, and boxes under my desk. Next to the boxes sat a teetering pile of magazines; another concession to an inherent hoarding reflex I can’t quite seem to overcome.
Until last week.
I sat on my bedroom floor, in denim shorts and an old flannel shirt, dusty from vaccuumming and greasy from window cleaning, and I pondered the magazines. Years of impulse train station purchases, years of Cosmos and Cleos and Grazias and Shop. Years of “ten sex tips to drive him wild” and “get that bikini body you’ve always wanted” and “here’s a list of everything that’s wrong with you and everything you’ll need to purchase if you don’t want to be such a failure and also you’re fat.”
Next to me sat a bright orange bin-bag.
Quietly, one pile became two. One the left: the Cosmos and the Cleos and the Grazias and the Shop magazines. On the right: the Frankies, and the Rolling Stones, and the Triple J Mags, and the Times, and the Inked, and the art and music and literature magazines that had slipped their way into the fray. On the left were the magazines that made me feel inadequate. The magazines that told me I was a failure. The magazines that made my strident feminist heart ashamed of owning. On the right were the magazines that inspired me. That made me feel creative, and worthy. That made my strident feminist heart swell with pride.
The pile on the left was shoved unceremoniously into the bright orange bin-bag, and hauled to the bin outside. The pile on the right went back under my desk. And I felt immensely better.
Now, late on a Tuesday night almost a week later, I’m sitting on my bed, and I’m flicking through an old Frankie magazine, and I’m listening to ‘The Sunset Tree’ album by The Mountain Goats (the brilliance of which I will proclaim until my dying breath), and I feel like a new person. I’m not skinnier, or healthier, or smarter, or more hard-working. I still have a lot of stuff. I haven’t dived into the surf, or made a list, or burnt all of my possessions. But I am no longer reading things that make me feel like shit, and maybe that’s enough.