Hi everyone! I’m Kate, one of the new Grad Life bloggers. But enough about me, I want you to meet someone special. Let’s call her S.
I met S. through non-traditional means. Two years ago, my boyfriend moved from Vancouver to Toronto. The cross-country moving company he hired mixed up two of S.’s boxes with two of his. Contacting the company to try to return these lost boxes (and to recover his two missing boxes) proved to be a dead end. This weekend, I finally unpacked S.’s boxes and I discovered that it’s amazing how much you can learn about a person by shamelessly pawing through her personal effects.
The first box I unpacked proved to be uninformative. It contained assorted kitchen implements such as a high-tech juicer, pots and pans, aprons, and towels. Everything was properly covered in the brown wrapping paper sold by the 10-lb pack at U-Haul. The only thing I can glean from this is that it shows a degree of foresight and cleanliness above someone who, for example, might wrap their things with a stack of free Walmart flyers that they desperately grabbed the day before they moved.
Upon opening the second box, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Jackpot.’ I’m guessing that this was one of the last boxes she packed, because things were kind of thrown in there: CDs, important papers, a few books, and some souvenir items. Obviously I was able to learn a lot more about her from this box. She likes jazz. Miles Davis in particular. We also have a mutual fanship with the Violent Femmes, the Raconteurs, Bitter:Sweet, and Bob Dylan. She has her guilty pleasures, like Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore, and blech – Neil Young. But even the biggest and most condescending music snob has these.
She went to the opening ceremony for the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Games. The last book she packed before moving (presumably the last one she read before moving) was You Are What You Eat. She has a cat named Toby. It is evident from several pet store receipts that Toby is spoiled and most likely fat. She has a boyfriend, R., whom she calls Boo. Boo sent her a Christmas card in which he simply wrote, “Love always. For life.”
Lists! She lists and organizes EVERYTHING. Shopping, to-do, schedules in half-hour increments. She kept a notebook in which she painstakingly detailed the food she ate and the physical activity she got every day. She filled the notebook with self-motivations and exclamations of the weight she had lost. She struggled with depression, but was actively overcoming it by building a garden, exercising, and meeting new people. Her ‘Action Plan’ detailed her goals to learn to rock climb, learn to sail, make new friends, and be more confident. I know it sounds improbable that I would learn this much about S. from a single box of stuff, but reading her notebook was like reading a very technical diary.
The stuff inside this box was so personal and private that I started to feel guilty. I shouldn’t know this much about her. I haven’t earned her trust. I shouldn’t be allowed to read the minutes of her therapy sessions, count how many times she filled her prescriptions, or know about her struggles with self-image. I was looking right into her life without her permission, and (to be honest) already planning to broadcast my findings on the internet. Does this make me a terrible person? (Aside: I want you to know that my original title for this post was: “Journey to the Centre of S.” I decided to stay classy instead.)
This experience got me thinking about all the little scraps of paper, useless mementos, and telling purchases that a person accumulates in their lifetime. If I packed a box that fell off the edge, where would it end up? What would be inside? And how well would someone get to know me if they opened it? How much personal bias would they bring to their examination of my life? I imagine S. as a likable and slightly neurotic blonde who works hard and approaches her problems head-on. But she could be a self-obsessed, balding control freak. In empathizing with her problems, I am giving her qualities which I admire and understand. It is difficult to imagine her as someone alien to me.
Right now I’m thinking of my contributions to this blog as my box. It will likely contain a few mundane items, some snapshots of struggles, and hopefully a little insight on this stage of my life at McGill. I won’t always know who finds it and what they think of it. I can only hope that they treat its contents with care. Unlike S., I’ll be sharing these things voluntarily. But like S. (I think), if I find this box again in the future, I’m sure it will be a nostalgic experience to go through it. And S., if you’re reading this, I’m keeping your stuff safe in the hope that I can send it back to you. Say hi to Toby for me.