By Bryan Teh Chia Wai
I bet everyone had one of these growing up. It could be a box, a bag or a drawer filled with things. According to Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson, an educational psychologist, children provide themselves with important thinking skills when they pick up a habit of collecting items. So our little habit of collecting as children had something to do with the fact that we were at that age when we were growing and developing our mental skills.
This little habit of mine started developing at the age of seven – in my early primary school days. I never knew why I had an obsession with collecting the weirdest assortment of things. I really admired transparent, shiny and oddly shaped things. I frequently wandered off to remote locations around my school, house or just about anywhere else. I would go in search of stones, insects and weird knick-knacks. I think this behavior of mine started due to my childhood ambition of being an archeologist or insectologist. I would carry a small candy box or an empty sharpener container and pick up just about anything that crawled, jumped or breathed. The insects obviously never remained in the containers because that would be sick. What did end up in the box were small stones, interesting metal pieces, a few dissected electrical appliances and many more odd things.
My little box contains many things, but the most valuable are the memories that come with those items. It’s not just a potpourri of knick-knacks; it’s my little flashback machine. When I was between the ages of three and five, I would stare at “burung tukang” outside my old house. My mom would buy bubble gum from the Motorcycle-Snack Man, and I would keep the wrappers in this box of mine. If I ever want to go back and experience the sounds or smells of my past, all I have to do is look into my little box, and it will take me on a ride back to the past. You can call me a sentimentalist or romantic guy, but the truth is, I just love the idea of owning little tokens of my past, and that is why I still have this little box with me today.
My little box is also my anchor. The sad reality is that we will have to grow up one day. Play will be replaced with work, and we will find ourselves being stressed out rather than feeling happy and free. We all have those days when we lose track of our purpose and feel lost. On those days, I tend to visit my little box. The truth is, the one and only certain thing in the world is, change happens, and it happens to all of us. Therefore, if I ever feel lost, a glimpse of my past can remind me where I am headed. If anyone wants to try and understand me, I’d probably pass them my box and let them decipher the mysteries of my life.
Our whole life is a long and tough journey. Along this journey, we learn about many things, and the most important thing of all is that we learn about ourselves. Maybe we are programmed to seek to learn and understand ourselves from the very moment we are born. That’s why we play, that’s why we make mistakes, that’s why we do stupid things, and that’s why we collect childhood possessions. All these lead to the understanding of self. When we collected things as children, our young selves were just trying to learn and discover our own identities.