I hadn’t even bothered to unpack over Thanksgiving break. I lived out of my duffle bag for a week. My mom noticed.
“Can you please unpack your clothes this time? Your closet is so empty.”
I laughed because usually I return home to find that my sister has taken over and that yet again her clothing has assumed all my leftover hangers. (Although jokes on her now because I can steal her clothes–and have.)
And yet, there was no sign of life in my childhood bedroom. The night stand was bare, save for a musical snow globe. Pillows were all neatly aligned on the bed and the chair. The floor was bare, too, though still showing the striations of a vacuum. The only markers that would even indicate that the room was my own were the books lining the shelves and the various disposable camera photos scotch-taped to the golden hued walls.
I saved the closet for last, fully expecting to live out of my suitcase for the remainder of winter break. However, my mother wasn’t far from the truth. Only remnant articles from high school lay lifeless on white shelves: some formal dresses, a dollar-bin straw hat for the Belmont Stakes, old athletic tees, random sheet music, some shapeless cardigans and band tees, as well as an alarming mask of Abraham Lincoln. If this closet were a time capsule, high school would appear to be a rather curious time for me.
I’d hate to dwell on high school nostalgia, but a recent piece from New York entitled “Why You Truly Never Leave High School” forced me to wonder if the extant memorabilia from grade school suggests the same:
“It turns out that just before adolescence, the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that governs our ability to reason, grasp abstractions, control impulses, and self-reflect—undergoes a huge flurry of activity, giving young adults the intellectual capacity to form an identity, to develop the notion of a self.”
The small crystals of my prom dress, I noticed, were yellowed with age, and now wholly clashed with the garment’s sallow blue color–a clearly expressed passage of time. This dress remained behind because, obviously, there was no need for a chiffon, floor length gown at school. The oddly ruffled cardigans that I once wore stayed behind after falling out of fashion’s favor (phew), tees followed after ceasing varsity sports, and sheet music after my orchestra days ended. Abe now stays behind because Halloween only comes around once a year, and because he isn’t the best room decor. (His return looks promising, though. Thanks, Spielberg.)
While more and more fragments of my high school self continuously drag behind in the self-identification race, the parallels between my adolescent and adult wardrobe have not really changed as much as I’d like to believe. Although all these reminders of a past life ought to exist perpetually in those glory days, cardigans still hang on velvet black hangers (more, of course, than I’d like to admit to owning), and some choice athletic apparel lines the floor of my mirrored closet. My notion of self has somehow remained a constant through years of movement, and even my reflection would suggest that the high school days really aren’t so far behind.
“Any cultural stimuli we are exposed to during puberty can, therefore, make more of an impression, because we’re now perceiving them discerningly and metacognitively as things to sweep into our self-concepts or reject (I am the kind of person who likes the Allman Brothers).”
The only major difference, if any, is the price I’m willing to pay; there’s certainly less cash inextricably blown at Forever21, and certainly more spent on investment pieces in intuitive styles pre-determined earlier than I ever considered. I am the kind of person who likes cardigans.
Back home, an evolved, more refined, almost-twenty-two-year-old version of myself continued to unpack for the long winter break. A nonfiction work on Mumbai found home on the nightstand and a, recently purchased, black shawl cardigan settled seamlessly onto the once vacant billet.