Peter Walsh told us It’s All Too Much years ago, and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo invites readers to let go of things that do not “spark joy.” Strength is behind every goodbye, whether we’re tossing a once-loved item or ending a relationship, and moving on is a bit like moving out. Life is a series of hellos and farewells, and sometimes the house you once called “home” is just right for someone else. Your tight fit might be another person’s perfect measure.
But how do we know if we’re accidentally discarding something valuable? Forget the full bin marked “Trash” or the pile marked “Donate,” because I’m talking about dreams and ideas dropped from our hearts or shoved from our desks. Author Stephen King and State Farm Founder G.J. Mecherle threw away the ideas that would make them famous. Balls of paper in a wastebasket could be a manuscript, book, movie and writing career. Kindling for a warming winter fire might be the beginnings of a massive business.
According to King’s book On Writing, his wife Tabby pulled crumpled notes from the trash while he was at his teaching job, and her encouragement kept him working on Carrie, his first published novel. Since buying a copy on impulse at the magnificent Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, owned by novelist Louise Erdrich, I’ve read On Writing cover-to-cover. Twice. So far. The book is an instructional guide as I learn to write fiction and at times a motivational kick back to my desk and keyboard. King shelved On Writing for awhile as a partial draft, and I’m glad he returned to finish it. (If you’re in the Atlanta area, you can find On Writing at another glorious independent bookstore, FoxTale Bookshoppe in Woodstock.)
As I wrote in the 2004 annual report for State Farm, Mecherle’s wife pulled his notes for a new business out of their Illinois fireplace. One man’s rescued idea grew into a Fortune 500 insurance and financial services company with more than 80,000 employees and agents, and for almost 10 years, I was one of those employees. State Farm hired me as an editor not long after I completed my journalism degree. I would exit the company a few years later, gain trade association experience in public affairs and governmental relations, then return for regional and corporate roles. State Farm was a good place to work and a difficult place to leave. But sometimes a new opportunity pulls you out of your comfort zone and into the next adventure.
The Talmud tells us, “Every blade of grass has an angel that bends over it, whispering, ‘Grow. Grow.’” Maybe dreams are like that. Be your own angel, and take a closer look at the dreams you left behind. You might find a treasure in the trash.