Recently I was reorganizing my garage and found some tax documents that were ready to be shredded. You know, past the seven year mark so it was time for them to go. I am the type of person who likes to clear out the clutter. I am not an over achiever in this arena but probably better at it than most. So I was kind of surprised to find these boxes of documents still up in my garage. They had been moved out of sight so when I read the dates on the boxes I was shocked to find they were nine, ten and eleven years old.

My life has changed a lot over the last eleven years. I am aware of this of course but as I delved into the boxes to begin shredding it became apparent that not just my life has changed. Life in general has changed. Some changes happen instantly and others incrementally, they kind of sneak into your life while you watch.

As I began to sift through the papers it occurred to me as technology is developed and we begin to introduce and implement it into our daily lives slowly our way of living changes. We develop new habits and our behaviors change. Our children (entire generations) have no point of reference to what has come before and probably no real appreciation for the technology and comforts they now know as the standard way of living. I am sure my parents and grandparents felt the same way about my generation.

I am a woman in her early fifties. Not old but not young either. I tell you this to let you know I have a few decades of history here on earth. Merely a snapshot in time in evolutionary comparisons, I know. Yet as I began to pull documents out to start shredding I was reminded of events that have transpired over the last eleven years. I found papers that were from my career at that time and I reminisced about the job, co workers, trips to Chicago and how long ago that all seems. The company I worked for is no longer in business and the industry has all but disappeared. It starts to sink in how very different life is now, entire industries fading away while others come to life creating our current world.

I dug into the box and opened up another envelope. I found carbon copied credit card receipts that have the entire credit card numbers on them. This was an acceptable practice back then. We trusted that no one was going to steal our credit card number and with few exceptions for many years this was the case. We really didn’t worry about identity theft. I am sure it happened but it wasn’t as common or as easy. Then I remembered being asked if you would like the carbon copy ripped up? Or we would rip them up and leave the pieces behind! Paying by credit card has evolved in so many ways.

My phone bills reminded me of phone companies that no longer exist. Cell phones had just transitioned from being car phones (I kind of like to think of them as land lines for your car) to being what they are now, in many households replacing the traditional home phone. A few years ago there were hardwired car phones and an entire industry for installing them in your car and now we have laws that say no cell phone usage while driving or hands free only.

People are talking everywhere about everything (disturbingly many times about things way too personal). Slowly our personal space became invaded with other people’s private conversations. This is an odd thing you are walking through the middle of a stranger’s life story without context and can at times feel guilty for listening.

Looking over my old phone bills it occurred to me text messaging had not yet started and we were okay not having it. Text messaging is now a great form of communication.

Okay, I had so much to shred I burnt up my shredder! Have you noticed that shredders are treacherous and have an odd smell to them? Shredding is now a common practice that was not prevalent eleven years ago. We shred our junk mail, our documents, old credit cards and just about any piece of paper we think might possibly allow someone to steal information from us. Yet, we post tons of personal information on the internet (sometimes as we are actually doing the activity we are posting about) giving people a detailed itinerary of our daily lives and then we link it to all of our family and friends.

In one of the boxes I found invoices from one of my first Internet Providers, it is no longer in business of course. Computers were around but not yet as integral to our daily lives. Today I use my computer for everything, I have my own website, I wouldn’t be able to communicate without email and I would be lost without my PC or my laptop! It seems I have adapted.

I do think all of this technology adds a level of immediacy to our lives. I believe this creates unreasonable expectations for responses. This can all be very stressful. Sometimes immediately reacting or responding is not the best course of action. Sitting with something and processing the information can offer better insight.

You may wonder how I got all of this from a box of tax documents waiting to be put through the shredder. Well in a word, paper, a real piece of evidence linking us to our history. A paper trail of documents etched with personal handwriting that represents a way of living that no longer exists on many levels. A trip down memory lane for me and an acknowledgment of being a participant in what we call progress. As I sent each piece through the shredder I saw my not so distant past move into a bygone area…a time past. There is definitely a part of me that misses it and a part that embraces the change and evolution. I do wonder though, if we shred our link to the past and no longer chronicle our personal history how will future generations come to know us and our stories?

©2011 Lisa Prunier, High Road Post

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