Future Schematics

I reorganized my home office over the past couple of days.

I’ve been reluctant to do it for a while even though it has become necessary — I had too many pieces of furniture, too many books, too many stacks of things piled up on all free surfaces.

Example:  A month ago I got this wild idea (note: this is what qualifies as wild to me nowadays) to put in a record player, an old-school halfway decent audio-technica model, into a corner on its own stand, bought the stand and assembled it, hooked up the player, and left all of this approximately in the center of the room because there was no wall space to shove the record player against.

To do that I would have to remove a book case.  And to remove the book case I’d need to organize the stuff on the shelves, figure out where to put said stuff:  a guitar effects board, an old laptop that I still need to periodically use because it’s a Mac and sometimes I need to use a Mac for my job, a filing box, an old League of Legends plush doll, another plush of a Rick and Morty character named Meeseeks, and so on and so forth, five shelves of miscellaneous items.  Some of these would have to go on my other book shelves which were already full — which would mean I would have to clear space on those bookcases first — which meant making decisions about Books to Donate and Books to Put In A Box and Store In the Basement.

It’s a cascading sequence of Things to Do.  I can’t do A until B is done, but I can’t do B until C is done.

The hardest part is choosing what to put in the basement.  Donations I can handle.  Donations are a firm decision to say: Ok, I read this book, I got what I wanted out of it, I can’t see myself reading it again, and it wasn’t SO meaningful that I want to keep it on the shelf just to remind myself that I read it.  I keep all sorts of books purely for that reason — The Chocolate War, Franny and Zooey, Watership Down, Portnoy’s Complaint.  Donations might look like:  World War Z.  Other People’s Houses.  A is for Alibi.   They tend to be casual-reading books, stuff that isn’t going to change my life or philosophy, entertainment for its own sake.

I get tripped up on some stuff though.  I have at least six books on how to draw, ink, and illustrate comic books.  It was a phase I went through in my 20s — to learn to draw.  I wanted to prove that someone with no natural talent could, in fact, learn this skill in mid-life.  The results were mixed — I learned how to copy someone else’s drawing pretty well, or clone many acrylic paintings, but I never learned how to really make my own art without using something to model.  And I never became fast — it’s a hobby that seemed to require hours and hours of time and dedication.  I found it was more satisfying to use my limited adult free time with words — that consuming and creating with words was more important than images.

I can’t really donate them — they have paint drops and markings on them.  They’re heavily used.  But do I want to put them in the basement?

Two years ago when I was looking for a house with my wife, we would often go into the basement level of whatever property we were surveying and see the following:

Monitor speakers, one or two guitars, a drum kit.

Whenever we saw this I would make the comment:  This basement is where a dream came to die.  One of these owners wanted to be in a band but instead had a white collar job of some sort.   Probably tried to play in their free time, with varying levels of success depending on the demands of the job they held and the number of kids they had and the individual’s overall motivation to play.

But the phrase stuck with me.  The basement is where dreams die.  I felt like, if I put these books in the basement, I’m saying no to this dream.

And then it occurred to me that the entire act of reorganizing my room was about choosing my future.  It wasn’t merely about cleaning up.

It was saying:  For the next several months or years, I will go to record stores and consciously choose bands and albums and place them in this room.  I will stand up and pick my music and flip the record when the 22 minute side has finished playing.  I won’t listen to as much robot-AI-curated stuff on youtube.  I will try to make my own choices.

It was saying:  I will never read these books again.  Or the reverse:  I am still planning on taking a crack at Joyce’s Ulysses.  And I definitely still want to read Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  And I ought to at some point learn something from The Secrets of Story.

In some ways I am laying the groundwork for years to come — discarding some fantasies and replacing them with others — creating an updated schematic for life, or at least, portions of it.

It’s no wonder that I’d been putting it off.

In the end I put the art books in the basement.  I kept the music books upstairs.  I put my playstation 2 and my sega dreamcast in a box along with games and peripherals and will drop them off at a retro game store at some point.  And I filled three small moving boxes with books to donate.  The room is clean and I have Radiohead’s OK Computer playing while typing this, which is appropriate, because on that album they have a track titled Everything in its Right Place which is, as best I can tell, a song which mocks people who need things to be just so — the neatniks, the control freaks, the people who line up five pencils vertically parallel just to the right of their work area, and I’ve just put everything in its Right Place, so I suppose I’ve become in the span of the last twelve hours one of these people the song appears to disparage, which is a thought that makes me smile for some reason.

Reorganize Home Office Project:  Complete.

I was able to do all of this work in the evening yesterday because my wife still has covid — it’s been 11 days now! — and she still feels like crap and she fell asleep around seven.  It’s getting to the point where she needs to set up an appointment with her PCP and have a more thorough evaluation.  Her brother has been stepping up and doing the extra parent care while she’s been sick which is sort of a subject of an entirely separate journal entry I have been meaning to write called The Upside of Covid.  It’s been nice to have her around and sick and not doing parent care.  She feels lousy physically but the stress of parent care is much reduced which results in, overall, a happier spouse, believe it or not.

That’s right, having a 11+ day bout of covid, complete with hacking cough, congestion, blocked sinuses and headaches is still preferrable to taking care of dementia-addled oldsters.  You heard it here first.


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February 1, 2023

I do hope she feels better soon – but I hope you’ll keep that news from her brother. 😉

I just put my “teacher clothes” in the basement (crawl space). Perhaps a basement can also be proof of a dream that lived? I also organized bookshelves. Third category: Books to Put in the Trash (= math textbooks from the 80s. Good god, the things I’ve kept.)

February 2, 2023

@justallie I love your category additions.  Yes, proof of a dream that lived  is great.  Not that different from me leaving books on my shelves that I’ve read and know I’m not going to read again but want to leave there because they meant something to me — they remind me that they are a part of my identity.

Yeah, probably time to toss those 80s mathbooks… 😉