10 March 2010 @ 03:38 am
break my arms around my love  
I have three ideas I'm going to string together here. Three and a half.


I've been back in Akron for a week and a half and I'm about 90% finished going through all my possessions and getting rid of all the stuff I don't want or need. I have such a hard time throwing stuff away because I attach a lot of meaning and nostalgia to objects that are actually crap and not worth keeping. Like I still had all my notebooks from my highschool classes stacked up in my closet because I thought someday I would want to go through them and brush up on chemistry? Or maybe just because they represented my high school experience and throwing them away is like saying I don't care about that period of my life. Which I know is insane, but it's still how I feel sometimes.

Other things I had been keeping because I purposefully wanted to hold onto a memory of a certain period of time, but fortunately I've gotten past a lot of that and would rather not have these physical reminders of stupid situations from the past. I found a bunch of letters and receipts and notes that I had stuffed in a tiny box with a post-it note on the front that said "If you open this, it will kill you." It was all from years and years ago and there definitely was a time I would have been really upset reading through all of it. But I just flipped through it and laughed at the post-it and threw it all away. It was really lovely. It's a good feeling to cleanse my life of all of this physical stuff I thought I needed to help me remember my life. I can remember my life fine without it, and getting rid of the physical objects helps me be healthier about it.

Another mind trick I play on myself is thinking I should save certain things because my children will want them. I save almost all my childhood books because I do want to have those if I have children. And also photographs and some baby clothes of mine and almost everything that was my mom's. But so much other stuff I have to say to myself, "Meryl, your kids are not going to want the broken Subway Sub Club stamp machine. Snap OUT of it." And then throw that stuff away. I did manage to throw out the stamp machine and the notebooks and a ton of other stuff.

I gave five boxes of stuff to Goodwill. I just had to force myself to not think about it and just do it. Even after all the Goodwill stuff had been catalogued and boxed up in my car to drive over there, I was looking at certain things and thinking I should take them out of the car and put them back in my closet. I stopped myself from doing that and donated it all, but certain things I've been thinking about and wishing I would have kept them. Snap OUT of it, Meryl. I also had to stop myself from going into the Goodwill after dropping off my donation boxes, just in case I found something awesome and wanted to buy it.


In this week and a half I've also applied for jobs a few places around Akron. I'm looking for radio/journalism jobs for the long term, but in the meantime I need to find somewhere to work around here. Abbie gave me a good lead at West Point Market where she worked last winter break, so I'm going in there tomorrow. I'm not being picky about where I work, I just want something to do during the day. Like I've only been home for nine or ten days and I already feel like the most worthless person on the planet because I don't do anything or go anywhere. I am an entirely unproductive member of society.

I need a job so I can save up some money, and I need a job so I have something to do all day, but I'm a little listless about it because there's not a huge difference between getting a job tomorrow versus getting a job in three weeks. I have somewhere to live and I have food and I can always ask my dad for money if it comes down to it. But I don't want to be that way, so I'm also trying to motivate myself to go out and keep applying by reminding myself of the things I want to do that require me to make money. Like, if I get a job I can buy all the food and goodies for Thanksgiving in April, or if I get a job I can go visit my brother at school. So whenever I start to feel disillusioned about going out and putting in more applications, I picture pumpkin pies and I picture Chicago and I get on with it.


I don't know if everyone saw it on Facebook and/or Twitter, but I found this old cassette tape of my mom when I was cleaning my room. It's two sides of her reading children's books, like a Bernstein Bears one and one about a dog on rollerskates. I vaguely remember them from when I was little. The label on the tape says "Mama Reads" and it's just her talking, so I think the idea was that I would be able to listen to the tape when I took a nap or something and it would be like she was reading me a story. When I found the tape and saw the label, I thought there was no way it still had the recording of her reading. I was sure I would have taped over it with Spice Girls songs recorded off the radio or something. But it was her. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

It made me start thinking a lot about the crossroads of death and technology and I'm going to try to make a little radio story about this tape. I actually want to put two ideas together and this cassette tape is in the middle of them. First is the relationship between people and the physical items they own, since I've been throwing away all this stuff that meant something to me. See, over the years I've come across some things that used to belong to my mom that I've debated getting rid of because I have no use for some of this stuff and it's just taking up space and I don't have a real emotional attachment to it beyond the fact that it used to belong to my mom.

For example, I used to have this box of old mismatched socks that had been my mom's. I had no use for them, I was never going to wear them and there were so many of them. I would find this this box of socks from time to time when I was cleaning, and felt terrible even thinking about throwing it away just because they were my mom's. I thought, my mom will never own any more socks and if I get rid of these, my mother's socks are gone forever. But then I think, ok, for the rest of my life, every time I move, am I going to pack up this box of socks and move it with me? How many times, how many closets, for how many years? It's so ridiculous. I did throw out the socks a couple years ago after talking myself through this, but I still feel bad when I think about it. SO ANYWAY, the point of this part of the story is that I want to keep physical objects around that remind me of people who've died, or belonged to people who've died as a way to honor and remember them, but it can be difficult to do that just because of the physical space these things take up.

The second part of this is about technology and its ability to preserve people's lives digitally, in a way that requires almost no physical space. Bear with me for a second while I talk about George Washington. It's amazing to me when I remember that no one ever took a picture of George Washington because cameras didn't exist, and no one ever made an audio recording of George Washington because wax cylinders didn't even exist. And historians have managed to preserve his essence through other ways, but just imagine how much richer the historical record could be if there had been technology like that. Then I think about me and how my life is preserved. I have a dozen videos on YouTube, almost a thousand Twitter updates, seven years of blog posts, seven years of archived e-mail, tens of thousands (if not more) digital pictures. I have text messages and voicemails and audio for radio stories and every dumb article I wrote for the Visor archived online.

So I think, if something happened and I died tomorrow, I would leave behind an incredible amount of digital information about who I was, what I thought and what kind of life I led. (This isn't even counting my written record like my notebooks and journals and things.) People could ask, "What was Meryl like when she was alive?" and they could learn more than they would ever want to know from all that digital media that can be downloaded to a tiny hard drive that would fit in your pocket. And I'm only 22 years old and I'm just ME. I'm a nobody. I didn't fight a war or found a country or get elected president of anything. And I think about my mom. She was just my mom, but there's no digital record for her because she died like two years before this newest digital media revolution. There are no digital pictures of my mom, she never sent me an e-mail or Twittered or blogged because that stuff didn't exist or it was too new.

All the time (like when I'm debating throwing out mismatched socks), I think about how little of my mom I still have. And so finding this cassette tape was like a goldmine because it brought back her essence in a way that I thought was gone forever, and for most people who died before digital video and audio, it is gone forever. So somehow I want to try to put all of this together into one story kind of revolving around this cassette tape. I want to talk about preserving things in physical space versus digital space, and how people relate to possessions. We'll see how/if that turns out.


A couple days ago I noticed a greenish spot on my fingertip like someone had drawn a little dot with green Sharpie. And then yesterday it was a little darker and bigger and I was panicking because I thought it was some weird sepsis and my finger was rotting off and I would have to get it amputated. Then today I realized it was just a little bruise because now it's better.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Amandasophiahagia on March 10th, 2010 10:02 am (UTC)
I totally get what you're saying about the digital media thing. My sister died a couple years before all the social networking really took off, before email and blogging were as important to our age group as they are now. So the only words I have from her are in this story I made for radio about her going prom dress shopping. And it is the dumbest story, poorly produced, not well-executed at all. But it means the world to me. I mean, here I am, all over the internet in various ways, and it's almost like she didn't exist to the rest of the world.

All this to say, in my oh-so-convoluted way, that I understand where you're coming from.
(Anonymous) on March 10th, 2010 03:21 pm (UTC)
Your experiences in this post are strikingly similar to those that i've had in my life since my father died when I was 9. Once when I was home from college, I found a box of his old cassettes; one of which he had recorded himself talking and cooing to me as an infant. It was completely surreal and shocking.

You're right in the fact that someone's presence can announce itself in strange and unexpected ways; memory is unalterably connected to tangible objects. Not long after finding the cassette, I was watching a video of my favorite childhood cartoon and it abruptly jolted to a taped over football game in the early 90's. I will never be able to throw that vhs away, among other seemingly worthless objects that connect him to me.

Your "trail of social media" has always been incredibly thoughtful and good.

Meryl Swiatek: things I don't believemerylinabarrel on March 22nd, 2010 11:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks. It's funny how just knowing that your dad was the one recording the football game makes the tape valuable. I like that.
(Anonymous) on March 22nd, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
Hi, Lovely post and reminded me of a similar story in my life. When I was younger my Father had a reel to reel Grundig tape recorder onto which we would tape random songs off the radio. We also had a microphone that we would sing into, my Dad would do pretend quiz's with me, my sister's and friend etc. One day, during a clear out I found the recorder and tapes and played them through and found a recording that survived of one of the 'quiz sessions'. I transferred this onto a cassette about twenty years ago and then recently found it again and converted it to an MP3 on my computer and then burnt it to a few CDs and gave a copy to my Mum (who is also on there singing 'The Twelfth Of Never') both sisters and my childhood mate. They were so surprised. It brought back Sunday evenings in the early 70's and my family almost close enough to touch!
Meryl Swiatek: things I don't believemerylinabarrel on March 22nd, 2010 11:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Journey
That's a great story, and awesome that you burnt copies for your family. A unique recording like that can definitely take you back in time.
nuwombrostifur on March 25th, 2010 02:26 pm (UTC)
This is my first time on livejournal in a while! I signed in to my account so that I could leave a message but the name rostifur sounds kinda weird these days.

Anyways, I'm Scott and I listen to the Spark Podcast (recently introduced to it) and I am pretty certain your post and stuff on the recent podcast was probably why.

I actually got pretty emotional and started to think about getting family to read child books like that so that they can share which children later.

I don't know what it's like to lose my mom, but I am pretty in touch with empathy and I've lost 3 grandparents. I have 1 left. I often think about how I wish my grandparents got to meet my fiancee or vice versa. It leads me to think about children in the future too and wishing I could have grandparents read them a story before bed.

"what grandma to read for you tonight?"

I can only imagine.

People often look at me so weird because I share everything online. Way more than I'd ever even be able to share in person. It's why I'm here today and not 10000 years ago.

So Thank you for helping me feel a little less crazy today. A little less crazy for doing what I'm doing online. I probably would have sent this in email form but I wasn't sure where to do that or find that here. I'll bookmark your blog or add to an rss feed!

Thanks and I hope things are going well (saw the video blog for a few)

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )