In about a month, I'll be living in Maine again.
I've been living in Colorado Springs for six years now, and before that Massachusetts for three, and before that, Maine, where I grew up and spent most of my college years as well. Every time I move, that means all my stuff moves, too, and for someone who's a collector, that means "my stuff" translates roughly to all the things I've tended to talk about here (and my other mostly aborted blogs). That means my collections of books, music, movies, and comic books.
We'll start with the last of those. When I moved to Massachusetts, I initially left my comic books behind, only bringing them over later, comics I'd been collecting for years, although it wasn't until Massachusetts that I started doing so again. A year back, I sold all those comics. During the time since I've come up with a smaller collection of those, and yet I will be selling them again. I've learned that no matter how much of a collector I can sometimes be, comics will always be one of the hardest things to justify keeping around. If you read a lot of comics, like I've tended to, they begin to be that much harder to go back and reread. (I'm not a collector who obsesses over future value.) Instead I've become what I sometimes dreaded in the past, more of a reader of collected editions than individual issues. Things change. But that's something that I won't have to worry about moving this time.
Then there's music. For me, music still exists on CD. Yes, I am the Monkasaur. All the hep kids transitioned to digital music back when people still thought it was perfectly okay to steal it (it never was), and then everyone else started to join them when it went mainstream (which is the reason why we now have tiny computer that do a lot of tricks but far less than actual computers). But I still have my collection. But it had to be thinned. So I thinned it, and I was surprised that there were artists I'd devoted myself to collecting that I was okay with thinning, among other cuts. Shows that I shouldn't have been collecting the way I'd been in the first place. Unlike comics, I'll admit that about the music.
Same with the movie collection. Yes, still in physical form, and never in Blu-ray (which the Great Recession exposed for what it really was, merely an expensive variant on its immediate predecessor). Actually, I still had a good number of VHS editions. "Had" because I don't have them anymore, even though there were a lot of movies I'd never replaced with DVD editions. But I had plenty of DVDs. Plenty. And so I had to thin through them. Some of them were movies that I wouldn't have parted with had I not forced myself into thinning the herd. Some of them were exposed as movies I probably never really had to have in the first place. Such is life.
Yet the biggest sacrifice was in the books. I've been amassing books all my life. I've eliminated selections from this pack in the past. My pre-college library stuck around Maine for the most part, and I was fine with leaving most of those behind. And yet I had a very big collection of books. So many books that several years ago I instituted my Reading List to try and prioritize them. I always figured I would get around to all of them in time. And yet with books, this can get a little ridiculous. I still hadn't read books I'd gotten ten years ago. And I just kept collecting them. Actually, as I was shedding books, I even eliminated some from the current Reading List, and even, beyond a few key books, I guess I abandoned even that, at least for the time being.
I quickly learned that selling to used books store is not a great way to make a profit. These days it's hard to tell how much anyone values books. In a blogging community like this one you can sometimes have a distorted view of something like that. Now, I'm not talking about all the independent authors hawking their own books (even me), or the books of their friends. I value the Cephalopod Coffeehouse these days because it's the rare public acknowledgment that people are really still reading, and not just supporting the latest popular release. I'm all for bandwagons, don't get me wrong. Otherwise history never remembers anything. But I value discoveries of truly great works, too, and I don't think bandwagons always discover those. I've discovered that a lot in my reading. It's always possible that the greatness I see now but seems absent from anyone else's radar will be discovered by later generations. Perhaps it's even likely. And some future kid will hate reading what I treasure now.
I've discovered time and again that the books I thought would definitely stand out from the pack didn't live up to my expectations. I think I learned that my discretion wasn't always as filled with discretion as I believed at the time. That's why it was easy to shed so many of my books, and music, and movies, and even comic books. (Although in comics, it's never a given that the best work will end up in collected editions, and that's something that still bothers me about some of the stuff I don't have anymore.)
As I prepare to move again, I do sometimes curse that I have anything to move at all. Humans have a collector's mentality. Some of us have reacted against this by saying we don't need anything, and that the best way to live is minimally. But I see the true purpose of living as experiencing the very best there is to experience, and for me the best resides in the arts, in the entertainment that we're able to preserve. And because few people seem to have the very same tastes, it's sometimes necessary to have personalized collections, and thus my dilemma.
In this streamlining effort, I'm learning more and more about what matters most to me. I don't curse myself too harshly, because these things take time. It's a whole process. There aren't strictly delineated Points A and B, but many points, and if just one of them were missed, everything would be different now, and as far as what I've discovered, I'm pretty happy with what I've experienced so far. I tell that to myself after every disappointment, by the way, no matter how screwed up my life can sometimes seem. I think the worst anyone could say is that they can imagine their life as very different from what they already know. There's a lot that we can't control, but we control more than we think. If you try, you can find the best of even the worst life can throw at you.
I've considered moving back to Maine quite a few times over the years. And yet if it had ever been at any other point, everything would be different, and there's too much that I'd rather keep as it is, no matter how much I'd like to change, to even consider what might have been if I'd moved back at any other point. I've been reducing what I have, but the accumulated experiences will never leave me. And that's all that matters.