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Be a Collector of Memories (and not just the perfect ones)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve placed a higher value on experiences and memories than possessions. This is why most of my furniture is from Ikea (or family) and most of my wardrobe is from Target. It’s also why I travel at every possible opportunity and take untold numbers of pictures everywhere I go. It’s why I blog. It’s why I love to plan. In fact, I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it this way before, but being a collector of memories is my biggest hobby far surpassing any other fleeting infatuation (sorry, running). 

It’s not that I don’t enjoy nice furniture or learning new things. But I think in ticket currency. Meaning, when there are dollar signs in view, I don’t see a new living room, I see how many days my family of four can spend somewhere. I think of how I can add to my memory collection.

We’re coming off a much-needed long weekend where we spent half of it in Myrtle Beach and half at home. We relaxed at the beach, did chores at home and spent the 4th of July with friends. It was the perfect mix of old and new. 

As we made our way down to the beach, Jerry started pointing out all of the old abandoned buildings along the country roads. I snapped a few photos and I’ve been thinking a lot about them since. 

We have never been to Myrtle Beach and didn’t realize that there isn’t a straightforward way to get there from here. About a third of our trip was spent driving on old country two-lane roads through all but dead old country towns. It was fascinating. 

The more I think about the buildings we passed, the more they remind me of myself. Look at any of them and you’ll see a mixture of old brick, wood, glass, plaster, metal, newer brick, painted brick and growing vines. 

I’ll be 39 in just over two weeks. When I look back over my life and my body, I am really no different than these buildings. My memories, my experiences from each phase of life are new additions (or repairs) to my old building. 

My foundation is strong and I hope to be holding steady as life changes all around. While I can appreciate newer and more pristine designer buildings, I see such beauty in these old forgotten structures. They look abandoned. Yet, they stand. 

Years ago, I was interviewed about the use of Botox. I recently found the article and while my lines are much deeper than they were five years ago (thanks boys), I still feel the same way. Here’s what I said, 

I just feel that aging is beautiful and each line is a memory, a badge of honor. I wouldn’t feel right erasing that.

Since then, I’ve removed the “just” qualifier because it’s not needed. The truth is, aging is beautiful. Period.

Sometimes I am the mural below, all dressed up and wearing my favorite makeup. It’s part of the fun. Sometimes I am raw and unfinished, with my jagged edges laid bare for all to see. 

What I especially love about the symbolism of this mural is that from a distance, it’s the prettiest thing in town, especially when compared to the other decaying buildings. But with a closer look, I see cracks, texture, and signs of life. The vines growing on and around the brick tell me there is still something fresh here. There is still life. 

This building has no doubt seen some action and I would bet it’s been painted over many times. How often do we do that? With each stage I put on another hat or learn a new job. But each old layer is still there under the new. Each crack is repaired but still there. Life. 

Why I am a collector of memories

I am a collector of memories because they are more than just a fun day at the beach or a snapshot in front of Cinderella Castle. Memories are the gift of life lived over and over again in our minds. Yes, we naturally tend to filter out the unpleasant, but even the hard truths have value. 

Some of the cracks in my foundation are deep and painful. There are decades-old memories that I can still feel physically. Alone, they would be too much to bear. But when I click them in to the rest of my life like puzzle pieces, the cracks begin to fill. The vines grow and wrap around me with the fragrant signs of life. Real life that I lived. Real tears that I cried and real laughter that fills my soul. 

Being a collector of memories is the reminder of my foundation. I’m not perfect. I have good days and bad days. I’m aging. I’m learning as I go. I make mistakes. 

Yet, I stand.

Probably painted over many times, I'm like this building. I may put on another hat or learn a new job. But each old layer is still there under the new. Being a collector of memories brings it all together.

andrea

ABOUT ANDREA

I'm a travel-loving boymom living in Raleigh, NC. I love making life a little bit easier and a lot more fun by sharing easy recipes, travel tips, and holiday treats. Read more...

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Andrea Bates

Thursday 6th of July 2017

Oh, Andrea, this is so so wonderful.

I've got a lump in my throat. Memories mean so very much. Life, aging, it is beautiful. As is this.

Andrea Updyke

Thursday 6th of July 2017

Thank so much for your comment and your kind words!

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