The bulletin board at my desk is decorated with postcards from my friends, a favorite writer (Jonathan Franzen - second from the left) and myself.
If it is personal, I keep it. Even if it’s painful or embarrassing, often if it’s silly.
My penny loafers from high school. (It was the early 90s, the grunge era, and everyone else wore Doc Martins.)
Postcards: I have a sweet handful from friends in other states, another handful my grandparents bought during their honeymoon, and one that the novelist Jonathan Franzen sent me in response to a letter I wrote him last spring. (I have a copy of my letter to him, too, of course.)
Notes passed in class during junior high school. Thank you cards from colleagues and employees. Funny, sweet or complimentary emails in an Outlook folder labeled “Things I Should Keep”.
Photographs. Mine. My parents’. My grandparents’. My great-grandparents’. Distant relatives of whose place on the family tree I’m uncertain. (I framed a photo of my dad’s mother – in her 20s at the time – posing semi-nude on a coffee table, which I then hung above my dining room table. I show it to everybody!)
VHS cassettes of home movies shot in college. One of them was for a creative writing class; we had to write a screenplay and I co-opted my boyfriend and roommate into giving long monologues about sex, faith and death. (My favorite topics at the time.)
Letters. From my mother when I was a newborn, from my ex-husband shortly before he became my ex, from me to myself – intentionally tucked away knowing I’ll stumble across them later when I need them.
Journals from second grade on.
The journals in particular are profoundly important to me, which is why I was so touched and troubled by author Dominique Browning’s recent New York Times piece about burning her diaries.