My office at school is actually quite small. When I entered it this week I was struck by how much it resembled my bedroom as a teenager. Rather than clothes and vinyl records strewn all over, my office floor, what little of it there is to begin with, is covered in papers and books. My very large poster of Frida Kahlo is a mature substitute for the very provocative poster of Jim Morrison the lead singer of the Doors, that hung above my bed. In the poster Morrison (who went to UCLA by the way) is wearing exceptionally tight leather pants causing my mother to gasp every time she entered my room. At some point she would have enough and ground me until I straightened up the mess. Of course the solution to that was easy: stuff everything in my closet.

The crown jewel of my teen bedroom though was my bulletin board filled with souvenirs from my 16 year old life. Concert ticket halves, medals and ribbons, playbills, photos of friends, palm crosses, cards from my boyfriend, a pin that said “Fuck Authority” and other memorabilia. I still have the pin on my desk but have no idea where everything else is. My office also has a bulletin board filled with souvenirs. Cards from students; photos of friends, family, pets; colleagues past and present; one photo of a best friend who passed away well before her time; name tags on lanyards from various conference presentations and flyers from events produced with students. This bulletin board represents my academic years. 

As I look around and move some folders off my chair I hear my mother’s voice grounding me until I clean this up. I think that my “other” life is as exciting, rebellious, fun, risky and real as my teenage life and I am using this room in the same manner I used my old bedroom…like a crash pad. My office has become a transitional space; connoting that in some respects I am separating from something here just as I was from my mother long ago when I provoked her.

Rather than stuff everything in a closet (basically my drawers and file cabinets are already full), I vow to come in one weekend and remove all but the most necessary objects. Make some space and see what may fill it. The hardest task will be deciding which souvenirs to keep. Of course my “F Authority” pin is the one non-negotiable.


How do you decide what souvenirs and tokens of your life to keep?