Monday column: My box of memories

Opinion Sunday 04/February/2024 18:20 PM
By: Saleh Al-Shaibany
Monday column: My box of memories

I was going through an old box that was gathering dust for many years somewhere in the darkest corner of my house. I tipped it over and the contents fell on the floor so I could sort out what I wanted to keep.

Photos, scrap of papers, files, negatives and even my old college notes tumbled out. My nose was filled with the dust but that was the least of my problem. Everything on the floor was valuable to me. They each told a different story at one or another. Some of the items brought a twinge of pain, a few raised questions of my past and the rest brought confusion.

Memories flashed back spanning three decades. Yet, with all that emotional turmoil that box had, I could not bear to lose any of the contents. Memories do not necessary remind you of just good things. If the content of the box were supposed to be the reflection of my past life, then I see my present completely different from what I had envisaged then. It was a youthful exuberance and the confidence I had then was unbounded. The word ‘pessimism’ did not exist in my vocabulary.

I picked up my picture that was taken by a friend just minutes after my graduation. There was a big smile on my face that stretched from one end of the face to another.  I remember now, saying to my fellow graduates then, that the shackles of ‘student slavery’ were forever gone. I put the future of my life on top of the world. I left the college that evening with a spring in my steps, brimming with abundance of energy. I left everything behind that would remind me of my studies, or so I thought. I did not know that I could not banish from my mind what I saw and felt there. The friends I made, the roads I crossed and the shops I walked in.

I took them with me and as I looked at the clutter on the floor, I knew, right there and then, I never managed to place my future on top of the world, simply because there isn’t such a place. The excitement lasted just a month. If studentship was ‘slavery’ then becoming an ‘employee’ did not exactly elevate me to the ‘master’ status.  Responsibility came very fast. The reality hit me on my face with the realisation that I had to fend for myself. I dusted off the photo and put it aside, it would serve as a reminder of my youthful smugness. I picked up the college magazine and read my own poem.

The line, ‘I would walk into the darkness on the footpath of despair and ride out in the light on the horse of joy’, made me pause. I am not sure why I wrote the line then. Perhaps it was a youthful fighting spirit that saw a good ending in any situation. I still retain that quality and it has made me endure so many depressive situations until the wave passed.

It took me half an hour to look into everything. Everything was important and I did not want to part with any of them. It was my junk and I would keep them as if they were a treasure. I put them in the same box and it went back to the same dark corner for another decade of slumber. However, the poem and the picture would need to stay else way. I feel the two will now serve as a rudder of my ship whenever it sails the turbulence water. On reflection, the past is not a bad thing if you look at the right place.