May 24, 2013 by Jean
During the past few weeks, I’ve been absorbed in end-of-semester activities – first grading final papers and exams and turning in final grades; then packing up my office for my department’s move to another building; and finally packing up what I would need for my summer in Maine. As I did all this, I realized that I am now entering my final year of teaching and that next year at this time, I will be turning in grades for the last time and packing up both my office and rented townhouse in Gettysburg on a much larger scale. At the office, I will need to go through a career’s worth of files, papers, and books and decide what to throw away, what to give away, and what to take with me into retirement. At home, I will need to make similar decisions about what to discard, what to donate, what to sell, and what to move to my house in Maine.
By American standards, I don’t have a lot of stuff (well – except for books). I have never understood the appeal of collecting things; I don’t have a passion for shoes or handbags; and I tend to buy well-made clothes in classic styles and wear them for 15-20 years. But even a relatively non-acquisitive middle-class American still has a lot of stuff! And some of my belongings haven’t been used in years. Take my collection of 33 rpm long-playing record albums. I have not had a functioning turntable for more than 20 years, and yet I have moved those records at least three times. Even though they are in plain sight in my living room, they have become part of the background of my life and I pretty much forgot I owned them. But recently they were called to my attention. A student in one of my classes, a music-lover, came to my house to deliver a late paper. When he was in my office a couple of days later, he mentioned my “impressive collection of vinyl” and offered to buy my records from me if I ever wanted to sell them.
This got me thinking. I knew it didn’t make sense to move these record albums back to Maine (where I moved them from in the 1980s), but why had I hung onto them for all this time? I realized that I missed a lot of this music and had dreams of being able to listen to it again someday. Then it occurred to me that my college has equipment for digitizing analog music media and that I will no longer have access to that equipment after I retire. So I made a deal with my eager student; I will “sell” him my entire “impressive collection of vinyl” in exchange for his labor rather than for cash. In the fall, I am going to go through all those old records and pick out the ones I really want. The student will then take those and copy them to CD for me. I will then give him those records plus all the ones I don’t have him copy. He is delighted, and I have made a small start on paring down my possessions.