Humans are collectors.
You may not consider yourself such because you don’t have art on your walls or a curio case filled with trinkets or a box where you store figures. But there’s almost certainly something that you collect.
Over the years, I’ve moved multiple times, from 10s to 1000s of miles between places. Each time I feel compelled to reduce my belongings. I know that they’re likely to expand again, but in moving, there’s an opportunity to consider each item and the space it fills—literally and metaphorically—in my life.
I am a collector of books. I have at times culled deeply, yet there are ones that have followed me to four different cities and more phases of my life. I am a hopeless practitioner of tsudonku, buying a book and leaving it unread.
I have held on to fewer and fewer trinkets over time. A few hold particular meaning, in how they came to me, who held them before.
I’ve kept my finisher medals for the half marathons and marathons and other runs I’ve done. In part, they take up comparatively little space. In part, they serve as reminders of what I’ve accomplished, things that at times seemed almost out of reach. In part, they also serve as prompts to set new goals and to test my limits in some way.
These baubles are tangible expressions of something else we, something that even the most minimalist person can and often does, collect: experiences.
Certainly there are experiences we’d prefer not to collect, though each one shapes and influences who we are and who we are becoming. But I’m thinking more of the experiences we seek out—the races we choose to run, the places we travel to, the challenges we set for ourselves.
Running coach David Roche suggests that race day should be a “celebration” of your training. It may be tough, but it’s the pinnacle, the thing you’ve been working toward a long time. It’s something you wanted, something you chose—shouldn’t it be a commemoration not a commiseration?
Sometimes the experience disappoints, and sometimes it exceeds our wildest expectations. What we can often miss is that the experience isn’t just this one moment in time. It’s the work in the moments leading up to it as well. It’s the efforts we expend building, preparing, testing ourselves.
The trinket is just a reminder of the celebration. The celebration is just one point along the way. The preparation is what truly changes us.