I spent my childhood chasing golden trophies, wooden plaques and blue ribbons. The bookcase in my old bedroom was lined with gleaming statuettes of poised swimmers and golfers; my bulletin board displayed ribbons and medals, each one representing countless hours of hard work and determination. As a young girl, I considered these awards to be my most prized possessions.
My parents are in the process of downsizing, so I spent this past weekend trying to pack all of the remnants of my childhood into a single tote that will go into my own basement (where it will likely collect dust for the next 30 years). I approached the project with the attitude that I would simply put all of my old stuff into the dumpster and move on with my day; my own storage room is a disorganized mess and the thought of adding anything else to this massive project is overwhelming.
However, as I started to sort through the boxes labeled “Kara,” I found it difficult to separate the memories from the things. I found myself saving essays written by my fourth grade self about what my life would look like when I grew up. (It included long-forgotten dreams of living in New York City with my handsome husband and adopted twins; I did not want to have kids.) I lost track of time as I went through my elementary school class photos, looking at all of the young, familiar faces of old friends and beloved teachers. And, I felt joy as I discovered my long-lost, complete set of Garbage Pail Kids! The idea of consolidating my childhood into a single box suddenly seemed draining.
So, I started with my big, bulky trophies and tossed them into the trash bin. Next, my plaques and a large zip lock bag filled with ribbons from my old swim team. It made me a little sad to see them go, but I realized that they had served their purpose and that I really don’t have space for them in my life.
As I prioritized what would stay and what would go, I found myself placing more value on my childhood journey than my accomplishments. I couldn’t part with the Garbage Pail Kids that I spent countless recesses trading with my best friend Kelly, my reflective essays with thoughtful comments by Mr. Hall (my favorite English teacher), or a single photograph. I know that there is value in setting goals and working towards them, but the real treasures of my childhood don’t include any awards for “Best Sportsmanship” or “Hardest Worker.” The real treasures of my childhood are simply childhood itself: The friends I made, the time I spent with family and the love that was given and received…all things that cannot fit in a box.
I hope that I can keep this perspective as I coach my kids through their young lives. Yes, it’s important to work hard and to maximize your potential…to set goals and to go after them. But, it’s equally important to enjoy the journey: To develop close friendships and to foster relationships with family. Because in a blink, they’ll be sorting through their own dusty boxes from my basement and wondering if their childhood treasures are trash or antiques?!?