It’s Not What You Think, Mom

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I had a very transitory childhood. My family moved almost every year (there were a couple 2-4 year stints of geographic stability, but by the time I was a teenager, we were moving every year). Because of this, I am the opposite of a pack rat. I learned very quickly that minimalism alleviates the laboriousness of constant transition. I have the ability to purge my belongings with wild abandon (or other people’s belongings, if they ask me to or if they leave their things in my path for longer than 24 hours). However, reading “Why We Need Things” (M. Csikszentmihalyi) reminded me of a significant aberration in my anti-hoarding lifestyle. I began downloading music feverishly as soon as Napster came across my radar, when I was 12 or 13. I was tenacious about this – finding new bands, finding new services after the inevitable shut-downs (napster > morpheus > kazaa). By age 16, I’d filled a 200 CD case with burned discs. Somehow, through these years, I’d failed to foresee my mother’s eventual censure of my “illegal activities.” She’d been too busy during those years dealing with the trouble that my three older brothers caused to notice that I’d been committing “massive thievery” for quite some time (I’d place my mother in the “paranoid Luddite” category, or as Kara would say, one of the “OLDS!”). When she finally noticed, she surreptitiously removed my hefty CD case from my room and drove to a dumpster some miles away wherein she disposed of “the evidence” (and thereby thwarted the inevitable FBI pursuit and eventual arrest of me/her/the whole family).

I was devastated. Until now, I’ve not thought of the connection between this incident and the events that occurred around this time in my life. Soon after this happened, I dropped out of high school. Unquestionably, I made this decision for a lot of reasons – my inability to cope socially and emotionally after the fifteenth new school is the one that stands out. However, I’d never thought of the role that my music collection played in quelling my “psychic entropy” and regulating my consciousness, and the downward psychological spiral that ensued once this collection was suddenly gone. Perhaps if I’d been able to articulate to my mother the invaluable utility of this collection in regulating my conception of myself, or that the collection “stabilizes the sense of who I am, gives a permanent shape to my view of myself that otherwise would quickly dissolve in the flux of consciousness” (paraphrased, Csikszentmihalyi 23), she wouldn’t have tossed it away with so little concern for my obscenely precarious teenage self-conception. Although, knowing my mother, she would have been just fine sacrificing my “self-conception” in order to keep the family out of jail. I did, after all, learn my indiscriminate purging skills from her.


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