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I’m in my third decade of life. I have a yard, a spouse, a job, two pets, and a car that (for some reason) I am entrusted to drive. I recently voted, and I have opinions about cooking but still continue to eat to stay alive. When I mentioned I had to go buy coffee, because the kettle I use to boil water died today, she said, “It’s still surprising to me to have to pay for things like that,” and I agreed that I too might never get used to being an adult.

A grown ass woman, I still bawl my eyes out every time I read my retreat letters.

Over 10 years ago, the weekend of my 18th birthday, I went on a retreat. Some people lovingly, and some not-so-lovingly, referred to it as a cult. However, no Kool-aid was consumed, and we didn’t stay in a bunker underground. Those who planned the retreat had obviously been before, but the majority of us were new.

I won’t include all the details, primarily because I don’t remember all of it. But also, because I don’t want to spoil it. I’m nowhere near the same person I was back then that day, but I still feel the magic. That feeling you get when you realize someone you don’t know very well or haven’t seen in a long time, thinks of you or remembers you. When I fondly review these notes, lovingly touch the paper of those who wrote them, I remember the minor or major relationships I had/have with those people. Some of them disappointed me, some of them surprised me, and all of them cared some degree about me.

A couple of the people who wrote the letters have left this earthly world. A few others are from mentors who are retired or retiring soon. Two are from my parents, one from my mom who was annoyed that she didn’t have more time to tell EVERYONE in our family to write me a letter. A couple of my friends from another school went on a similar retreat the same weekend and received letters from me. Maybe they still have them, although I’ve never remembered to ask.

If you read the contents of the envelopes it may not mean much to you, but they mean the world to me. For the last few weeks, I’ve felt a desire to purge my life of all the material possessions that no longer bring me joy (which has begun to feel like everything), and many rooms in my house have piles of junk that used to be treasure. A few things could still become someone else’s treasure, but most of it is chewed up by the passage of time.

I can’t tell you what to do with your life. Whether you should spend or save or take a vacation or quit your job. What I will say is that there are more people than you even know whose memory you pass through from time to time, and a select few that dearly love you. There are those who have been heartbroken by you and those who broke your heart. Certain souls have your imprint on their life. Maybe there are even souls who have lived several lives with you in them. And human beings remember the most random shit that you can’t remember about yourself that would make you guffaw.

Whatever you discard in your world, I urge you to hang on to something like this. I have about 3-4 actual things from my grandmother and a handful of her letters. I can tell you, I’d much rather have her words and pictures that the whole house full of material things she left behind when she stepped out.

Keep the memories. I mean, you should probably still have some clothing, shelter, and food, but keep the stuff that matters. Keep the ones who matter.

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