Our stuff tells our stories


Shortly after I graduated college - my favorite professor - who had painted an orange trapezoid in the breakfast nook of her kitchen just because she could - looked out her window and sipped her coffee.

"Your stuff is your history," she'd said. I didn't know much about her life, except that she'd had some very hard years after earning her Ph.D and was the quirkiest person I'd ever met. I don't know what I was telling her, but probably something about wanting to own nothing more in life than my guitar, Birkenstocks, and a few pairs of pants.

I wasn't interested in owning things, and once wrote of a salary requirement for a job that I just wanted enough money to pay my bills and have some left over to have dinner with a friend. I imagine the chuckles that an HR person probably had, seeing that I had just graduated from college and commenting to herself on my youth.

I had just left the convent where the nuns, for the most part, owned relatively little. Things seemed evil to me - having too much stuff seemed greedy, and like it could distract you from the things in life that were really important.

Even now, despite my well known affinity for shoes, clothes, and technology, I could probably be satisfied with my laptop, guitar and a small collection of clothes.

But I've never forgotten what my professor said that day in her kitchen. Our stuff is our history, and I've appreciated how right she is.

Two weeks ago, we got a new pub table at the gym. Did you notice? Probably not - it's the same style of pub table we had before. But as Josh was getting rid of it, I made him stop for a moment.

"My life changed forever at this pub table," I said. I'd sat with Doug at that pub table for the first time on February 12th 2015. I'd just started a job at Bates College, and knew that's not where I wanted to be. I met Doug through an online network (he had a former intern who worked there - his name is Trent Dubois). So on a snowy February evening, I sat with Doug and talked about my goals, my ambitions, and my dreams.

Exactly the way you have all sat at that pub table. With Doug Spurling, with Trent, with Chris or Mel or maybe me. And you've tried to answer the same questions about yourself - what do you want? What are your goals? What do you need? How can we help?

In so many ways, it's just a thing. A singular thing - a forgotten piece of furniture that, had I not been there to see it, would not have realized was even different.

But how how very, very, very right you were Dr. Marsters, that our stuff is our history.