I spent an hour cleaning a whiteboard yesterday. The bulk of it scraping off engraved dry erase marker (signed messages from my cousins that served as souvenirs for when they returned to Buenos Aires). For 11 years the messages co-existed as memories alongside an amalgamation of creations on the whiteboard panel of my paper white ‘Micke’ IKEA desk.
The desk found its home with me in middle school. Aside from the written souvenirs, I decorated the board with stickers and magnets. It was also the place that housed our family DELL desktop, on which I’d make music videos to 2000’s pop songs, chat with friends online, and write music during my american-idol-inspired-me-to-be-a-singer-songwriter phase (Too good to share online, sorry).
It then followed me to the first room of my own in a new house. Where I started to figure out life as a sleep-deprived high schooler. There, the writing on the board increased. More stickers and magnets joined. Glossy Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar editorials paired with saturated magazine scraps emerged. Throughout high school, the desk was my space to create. A space to dream, explore, and workshop all my creative musings. Where I could collect my thoughts and contemplate all the possibilities of what could be. What I could be.
When we moved to a new house at the end of my Senior year and I left for college, its magic faded. It became a neglected storage space in the corner of my room. Sitting down at the desk to create was replaced by the unfortunate pile-of-clothes-on-the-chair routine. But in the momentary crevices of visits home, I’d find comfort in its nostalgia. Later, during my last quarter of college, it kept me productive enough to complete my university remotely with the backdrop of a relentless pandemic.
And finally, yesterday. I find myself erasing the messages, tearing off the magazine collage, peeling off the stickers, and removing the magnets. When I was done with the board, I moved on to the rest of my desk. In two hours I’d cleared the board and redid the desk with stored decor from my room and garage. Mementos for so many moments. Chatting with middle school crushes on Facebook messenger. Blogging on Tumblr at 3 AM with a 7 AM start time the next day. Journaling my 5-year-plan as a junior in high school (spoiler: didn’t follow it). Late night study sessions. Restful and Restless nights. Two moves. Three houses. And so much more.
I credit my fascination with change (hence the name of this project), to my complicated relationship with it. You can probably blame all my Taurus placements, but usually once I’ve arranged something in my room I stick to it until I absolutely need to change it or, I ~reluctantly~ replace it with something more fitting to my lifestyle/aesthetic. So scrapping my familiar whiteboard set-up without an intention set was unexpected. But like other moments when I’ve impulsively felt inspired to activate change (again, it’s a complicated relationship and I’ll be expanding on it), this was cathartic. Melancholic and revitalizing, it felt like the manifestation of a clean slate. Or in this case, a clean whiteboard.
Erasing the messages on the board took time, a ton of clorox wipes, and scratching out the almost-tattooed ink with a cottonless q-tip. Even then, the ink didn’t completely fade. While most of the writing is gone, if you squint hard enough, you’ll see a few letters. You’ll also see some residual tape marks. Cleaning out the board didn’t erase the fact that the writing, magazine collages, magnets, and stickers were part of it for so long, or their remnants. Similarly, moving on to another chapter doesn’t erase the existence of the past in the archives of our experiences. And like when cleaning the white board drove me to redecorate the rest, change sparks change. Our interconnected experiences inform us and push us to form new ones.
11 years later and I’ve found clarity in a white 2009 IKEA desk. But that’s change. It doesn’t just show up when you take on a job, start a new relationship, move to a new place, etc. It’s the day-to-day adjustments. Taking a different driving route, choosing a different kind of milk at the grocery store, waking up at 7am instead of 8am to get more of a morning routine in, redoing your white 2009 IKEA desk…
We often use material possessions to retain permanence. The lingering childhood toys that we refuse to give away, old journal entries we wrote of happy times, the photographs of those we love but are no longer here… they, understandably, bring us comfort. They make us feel like we can hold on to our childhood, an achievement, a relationship, a version of ourselves… We can hold on without having to let go. What we fail to realize is that letting go doesn’t erase. It allows for more moments to come in. Change forces us to look back to move ahead. We can’t move forward without confronting and closing a past chapter. Whether it be personal patterns and relationships or something more mundane, embracing change is the only way to truly honor the past and accept the future.
It’s okay to want to hold on tight to things that remind of us of happier times or the people we miss. But whether we hold on to those things or let them go, they’ll stay alive with us as moments in time.