One of my favorite assignments in design school involved going through my old class work and re-appropriating something I had done before into something new. I took old photographs and turned them into new album covers. A once-glorious illustration became a newly-glorious social poster. A really-quite-bad infographic became a really-quite-funny t-shirt.
The idea of reaching back into your near- or distant-past for inspiration can be taken beyond scrapping old projects for new raw materials. Case in point: I’m in the process of selling off everything I own, and my trusty old guitar is sitting in the middle of my living room (which has become Purgatory for my items in transition).
I hadn’t played my guitar since I moved nearly a year ago. Pulling it out of the closet brought everything back, however, and before long I was jamming and strumming and plucking and having a grand old time (until the next day, when I realized my old calluses were gone…ouch!).
This happens frequently with my old writings, as well. Every once in a while I’ll come across and old poem or short essay, which reminds me that I was at one time a professional writer and that perhaps I should utilize that skill set more frequently.
Don’t even get me started on the perpetually lost-then-found Frisbee (75 grams…Ultimate Frisbee regulation size…oh yeahhhhh) that floats around my closet space.
The point is that we all have skills and personal effects that at one point were at the center of our universe, but have now been squeezed between the Boyz II Men cassettes and plastic harmonica case for so long that they’ve been all but forgotten.
Take a look around. Go through old drawers, closets, bags, and jacket pockets.
Check in on your old files, archived hard drives, and ancient mix CDs.
Call up a friend from high school, email your preschool teacher, or flip through the pages of a forgotten favorite young adult fiction novel.
These are all things that have contributed to making you who are you, and who you will become. Taking the time to remember them could act as a catalyst for you, make the long path you’ve traveled to get where you are more distinct, or maybe just be a lot of nostalgic fun.
Worst-case scenario: you’ll find some old Beanie Babies to sell on eBay. Score!
Update: April 23, 2016
This is something I haven’t thought about for some time. Re-appropriation of one’s own work, own stuff, own history — it’s a good point. Something to think about.
I don’t have as much stuff in closets and drawers these days, but archived digital goods are definitely available. Might be time to crack open the ol’ Dropbox and see what I can find tucked in the more rural folders.