The Salvation Army Truck Came, and They Took the Beautiful Monster Away…

sounds like the opening line of The Dream Academy’s “Life in a Northern Town”.

In a way, I feel a little misty today. While just a couple of days ago, I said I was fine with my decision to let the giant walnut computer hutch go, we are often reminded of setting things up, having everything that used to be there, and now it’s definitely gone. A friend of mine pointed out to me that it’s like having a friend move away. We may not have done much together lately, we may not have talked on the phone all that often recently, but we always knew we were there, until the day that they call you and tell you they’ve accepted a job back east. You’re happy for them, and they go on to do bigger and better, or at least different, things, but suddenly you realize… they are gone. The Beautiful Monster feels a little like that.

The funny thing when you make a change and suddenly have a lot of fresh options is to think “wow, what am I going to do with all of this space?!” For grins today, I grabbed a folding table and sat down with my two laptops, and started thinking of how I would set everything up. What happened? I realized that I was putting everything back into place, just as though the Beautiful Monster was still there. Hang on… if I’m just going to do the same things I’ve always done, what was the point in giving the computer hutch away?  This is a chance to do something different, to really change up how I do things. Again, the question I asked originally came back into my head… do I really need to have a dedicated home office? With the work that I do now, and the way that I do it, is there really a benefit to having the room permanently set up this way? Are there other things I want to do with this room? I realized that there were lots of things I wanted to be able to do, and if I set everything up exactly the same way, then I couldn’t do them. This got me thinking as to the need to keep so many of the things that I’ve always taken for granted. Why are they there? What purpose do they serve? Well, I have to have a bookshelf… or do I? It’s fun and dangerous when you start down these roads :).

What I found as I thumbed through many of my cherished technology books is that most of them are grossly out of date. I have newer versions of them in PDF format or I have access to sites that cover the same material, often better. I had a book about Tcl/Tk. Cool language, neat framework, I haven’t used it in over 12 years, though, and the entire reference is available online should I need it. To what benefit is me keeping an 18 year old book around going to accomplish? Other titles fell into that same category, and I realized that many of the books I had on my shelves were long outdated. Thus, new goal, focus on evergreen books as keepers and references, and liberate titles that will serve no purpose to me or my family any longer.

This is an interesting exercise, because it really shows what things you value and want to keep. I ended up with a shelf of CDs, a shelf of DVD’s related to Korean Drama, some random movies, and Native American handicraft and tradition. Another shelf is “evergreen how-to guides”. Think things like  sewing, money management, home repair, camping, guitar and playing music, gardening, fitness, Japanese language study and stuff related to Native American handicraft that would be hard to find anyplace else, Another shelf is dedicated to fiction and literature that I enjoy from odd places. Everything from Homer, Cicero, Jane Austen, Orson Scott Card, Stephen King and other titles that I go through semi-regularly.  This also includes my full run of of the manga of Neon Genesis Evangelion and my much beloved volumes of the Elfquest saga. Another shelf has what I call my “business and critical knowledge” shelf, which contains a number of books from various disciplines, including a few timeless titles related to writing. Examples include my much used copy of the Little Brown Handbook, Stephen King’s “On Writing”, Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit”, Steven Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Principle Centered Leadership”, James Bach’s “Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar”, and a number of books given to me to review and I have decided were worth keeping as permanent references related to testing and data security. I was surprised that this wasn’t a much larger list, until I realized that most of my current reading on these topics is in electronic format.

I have two sentimental holdovers that I was not willing to do away with. The first is a near complete collection of mental_floss magazine. I have all but three issues dating back to first publication to today, and I keep all of them. The second is a shelf full of classic black bound books from The Nobel Library. These books were a treasure to my grandmother, and she would often talk about stories she read in them and some of the interesting authors she discovered. The books covered the authors who won the  Nobel Prize for Literature from its inception on up to 1970 when the volumes were printed, and the pieces of literature that actually won the prize in that given year. When she passed away in 2001, that was one of the few things of hers I wanted to keep. It helped keep a connection of a love of reading and being willing to look for new knowledge and interesting stories wherever they might be found, and to appreciate the different voices and viewpoints in the world.

Several books that didn’t make the cut are still in excellent condition, so I’m going to be bringing them to my local library. Some have been discarded as they are very much out of date or no longer relevant. What I kept says a lot about me personally… it also says I won’t be getting rid of or downsizing my current bookshelf after all (though I’ve made some space for some new acquisitions 🙂 ).

As I pointed out in yesterday’s entry, I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, but I do take stock in what I’ve done during the year and what I’ve held on to, and what I feel should be gotten rid of or left to find a new home. What comes and goes isn’t as interesting as what stays year after year. The things that endure are often not the things we think will endure, and the stuff that we put a lot of attention into at one point in time often becomes out dated and useless to us later on.

Oh, and about that table… I decided to fold it up and stick it under my futon. An additional short term goal for the next few weeks is to only break it out when I physically need a desk to sit at for a needed period. and then to fold it up and put it back away. I’m going to dare to be bold for a while, and allow myself to picture living with and having this open space, and not be in such a hurry to fill it with old habits. New possibilities, after all, can only make themselves manifest if they are given room to be seen :).