Skeletons in my Underwear Drawer
This morning my neighbor told me that her 2-year-old daughter named her “pet” (aka. stuffed) monkey after me.
At first, I was flattered. Until I thought about it.
Also, I want to show you something.
THIS is my underwear drawer.
But the drawer itself isn’t what’s important — it’s what’s inside the drawer that’s interesting.
What? You thought I was going to show you my underwear? Don’t worry — I removed all the dental floss thongs, crotchless panties, and battery-operated boyfriends before taking this photo.
What I didn’t remove is this manila envelope. This manila envelope has sat at the bottom of every underwear drawer I’ve owned — including the plastic set of drawers that was the sole piece of bedroom furniture in Justin’s and my first apartment — for the past 19 years.
The only thing that’s changed about this envelope in 19 years is the thickness of its contents and their respective weight on my psyche.
See, my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Maetzold, was big on certificates of achievement. Like, way big. And even though the computers, printers, and software in 1992 were beastly dinosaurs by today’s standards, Mrs. Maetzold always took the time to design and print certificates that were unique for each subject or area of achievement. The special colors, boarders, pictures and puns were exactly the type of encouragement our tender, 4th grade hearts needed to stay motivated.
Certificate for excellence in Math? I think that’s the last time I ever saw one of those awards.
So she would give us these certificates whenever we did well on something — a test, an assignment, or just did something that impressed her that day. And she gave us these manila envelopes, told us to put them in the bottom of our underwear drawers for safe-keeping, and instructed us to use it to store the certificates we earn throughout the year. Then, if we’re really diligent, we could just keep on savin’ right up through high school and beyond.
Which is exactly what I did.
Hey, don’t judge me — I don’t have much in the way of material things from my past. And I know it sounds strange, but whenever I’m feeling a little blue, the contents of the folder in my underwear drawer are sure to bring a smile to my face.
100% on the Social test? See? I told you I wasn’t always awkward. Wait — maybe she meant social studies.
My, how I’ve changed.
This one’s the kicker:
Ah, Mrs. Maetzold. I’m sorry I didn’t manage to live up to your expectations. At least not by the age of 28. But I have to say… don’t you think maybe they were a little high? I mean, “Most likely to succeed” is a lot of pressure to put on a 10-year-old. Maybe it should’ve been something more specific like, “Most likely to graduate high school,” or, “Most likely to not go to prom,” or “Most likely to make it from here to the bathroom without tripping over her own feet.”
Except that last one wouldn’t have been true.
I do have 1 other thing besides certificates in my certificate folder. Something cryptic. Something that most definitely does not make me feel good every time I look at it.
What is this?
What is in this?
This envelope scares me for 2 reasons:
The more obvious is the fact that it is probably filled with wild expectations that my 10-year-old self had for my 40-year-old self — scary things like having a career or raising children.
The less obvious is the fact that up until today, I thought I wrote whatever’s inside this envelope back in 4th grade. I could’ve sworn it. I was positive Mrs. Maetzold had us write these letters to ourselves at the end of the school year and told us explicitly to keep them in our underwear drawers with our certificates, where we’d be sure to never lose them. But, as I was going through the pictures for this post, it became glaringly obvious that this envelope is from my high school.
At least 4 years later.
In another state!
Clearly, that is not the handwriting of a 4th grader. Maybe a 5th grader, but definitely not a 4th grader. But it is most definitely MY handwriting.
This can only mean 1 of 2 things: Either I put the original envelope inside this high school envelope for extra protection and can’t remember doing it; or, I actually wrote whatever is inside during high school, not 4th grade, can’t remember doing it, and I made the whole thing up about Mrs. Maetzold making us do it.
Either way, this can’t mean good things about my mental stability.
Anyway. There have been times when I’ve wanted to rip that sucker open so bad I could hardly stand it.
See? Still closed. Though, wouldn’t it be messed up if I did open it, and all that was inside was a piece of paper that said, “PSYCH!”
But now? Now I know I’m definitely not ready. Whether I wrote it in 4th grade or 9th, I know I’m not ready to live up to my own expectations.
And while I suppose that does reflect a certain level of maturity on my part (Way to go, Mrs. Maetzold — at least we got something right), it shows just how far I have to go to be happy with myself.
And, when I’m not, I’m glad there’s motivation to be found at the bottom of my underwear drawer.
I’ve always wanted to write a letter to ‘Future Matt’, but am afraid of what I would tell myself.
Yeah… it’s scary to think about what expectations I might have had for myself even in high school! At the same time, even if I don’t live up to whatever it is I put in there, it will still probably be an interesting and thought-provoking read.
‘Cause I’m good like that.
So DO it!
HEART HEART HEART!!! Oh, how I miss you…and how I long to know what’s in that envelope!!! Inside probably says something like, “Congratulations on delaying your gratification.”
In high school Japanese class the teacher had us write, on these very small pieces of paper, something nice about each of our classmates. She stapled them together and gave us our respective anonymous confidence-boosters. From time to time I’ll stumble across them and, despite the fact that the writers were teenagers and coerced by a teacher into being nice, they always make me smile.
You were mature before it was cool ;-) Congratulations on your math and social skills!!!
Being mature is cool? And, oddly enough, that’s the last word many people would use to describe me, as you well know. ;)
Haha, I love your idea of what it might say! Unfortunately, I’m thinking I probably wasn’t so clever. I seriously have no clue, though — and it freaks me out that my memory is that bad! Aw, I think that’s a nice assignment your teacher made you do. I wonder how many of your classmates still have theirs and occasionally perk themselves up by smiling at something you wrote about them?
I miss you too. :) When are you coming to visit??
I feel like if we lived in the same city we would be friends. In a non-creepy way.
But seriously, I have a similar folder (actually a box…all my folders get destroyed somehow) at my parent’s house that has old notes my friends passed me that were particularly nice (remember those days? I wonder if kids even write notes anymore…it’s probably all texting now) and random certificates I won over the years. It always makes me feel better when I’m feeling down about something.
And this actually inspired me to write a letter to my 40-something self. I’ll probably look back on it and laugh, or be equally tortured wondering what it says because I’m so forgetful I’ll probably forget after I seal it. Either way, it’s a great idea.
Haha, no worries — I’m not creeped out at all. In fact, I wish you did live here because my closest friend lives over an hour away. I guess that’s what happens when you move a lot!
Ahhh notes! I wish I’d kept some of those… And you’re absolutely right — I bed kids don’t write ’em anymore. That makes me sad.
I’m glad you’re writing one! The key is putting it somewhere you’ll hardly ever see it so you won’t be tempted to look inside, but at the same time it has to be somewhere you’ll never misplace it. Underwear storage for stuff like that is genius!
Wow that is alot of self control I am impressed! Your very own ” time capsule” I guess you have the main event for your 40th party … or is it something that you are going to do in private ?
Private! Definitely private. ;)
Love those old pixelated print shop certificates! I remember making posters for my room using that program! lol. I guess I didn’t realize you were from Omaha. I grew up just an hour south of you! :) My uncle taught in the Millard school district for years. Not sure if you had him or not- Don Bosworth. This post did remind me of my 6th grade teacher, who had us fill out a survey at the beginning & end of our 6th grade year & then gave them to us at graduation. I still have mine. I also have a letter that I wrote myself as a newly wed that I am supposed to open on my 10th wedding anniversary (my Mom & Grandmother’s project for me at my bridal shower). It will be interesting to see what I wrote when I get to open it in exactly one year from tomorrow! :)
What a crazy coincidence! I went to high school and part of middle school there. I’m not sure whether I ever had a Mr. Bosworth, though — but I think I’ve proven how reliable my memory isn’t.
I looove your wedding letter idea, and wish we had done the same. We wrote letters to each other to open right before the ceremony, but it would be nice, 5 years from now, to know what my newlywed self thought about this whole marriage thing 10 years prior. Because we both know I won’t actually remember. ;)
Happy 9 year anniversary tomorrow!
OMG! That’s amazing! I’m not sure I could have made it as long as you have. I would have read it. Or had someone read it and tell me if I’d be upset with it. LOL.
I have something somewhat similar to your certificates… For my unwedding day last year, my therapist suggested that my friends/family write me a note. They were supposed to show their support and say what they see for me in the future. These notes were wonderful – they helped me get through that day, but they also stay in my nightstand in case I’m feeling down. I’ve been thinking about writing a post about my notes, but I haven’t quite pinned down what to say.
Thanks for sharing this – I think it’s pretty awesome! (and it makes me wonder if everyone has something like this)
Here’s my trick to not opening the envelope: Every time I almost do it, I think about how disappointed I’ll be when I’m 40 and no longer have this to open. Also, if everything else that’s inside it labels me as a failure today, I don’t want the fact that I didn’t have the resolve to wait be just one more thing to add to that list. ;)
I love that all of your friends and family wrote you notes of support. In fact, I think this is a practice we should instill whenever anyone is going through something difficult. Better than gossiping or telling the same story over and over on the phone, everyone could get together and decide to mail the hurting person dozens of little feel-good notes to help get them through it.
I love it. We’re starting this. :)
It’s so cool that you saved that! In elementary school, we used to write stories that the room moms typed up and bound for us. (we’d even illustrate them.) I still have those, and they cheer me up if I’m feeling down.*
That is such a great idea! I don’t think I kept any of the old, stapled stories I made up in school… But maybe if they had been typed and bound, they would’ve been one of those things you think twice about throwing away. :)
You have such amazing self control. I, after realizing that my memory of the whole letter thing was way off, would have immediately ripped into it. It’s neat that you keep all that stuff. My hubs has all that stuff, too. Thanks for sharing.
It’s not so much self control as a short attention span — if I put it out of site, I forget about it and move on to something else soon enough. :) All I have from 4th grade on is this one folder. I HATE keeping stuff around, but I figure one folder in my underwear drawer isn’t too much of a clutter infringement on my space. ;)
What a great blog post… I don’t have an envelope, but I have (dozens) of journals from growing up (mostly filled with “omg so and so is so hot i love him” posts. haha :)
Now – you should write a blog post about what you would tell your 4th grade self now… similar to Brad Paisley’s “Letter to Me” :)
That would be great to read!
That is a REALLY good idea. I need to make a note of that.
Keep those post ideas coming! ;)
Oh! So many amazing things here. (Yeah, I’ve been slowly making my way through your archives. Love your blog.) For one thing, what a wonderful fourth grade teacher you had.
For another, I can’t believe you haven’t opened that letter! The curiosity would be killing me. (In fact it is now, and it’s not even my letter.) And you’re going to wait another 12 years? How can you wait 12 years for anything? If you are still writing this blog in 12 years, you have to share what it says.
Ha, I love that you’re going through the archives. I tend to forget about stuff down there. ;)
She was a really great teacher. I tried looking her up after I wrote that post, but the only information I could find is that she had retired. The curiosity does kill me, but at the same time, I know I’d be super disappointed in myself if I didn’t have it to open on my 40th birthday — that, and it’s entirely true that I know I’m not ready to live up to my own expectations of whatever might be in that letter. I need to be happy with the things I’m doing in my life to even come close to whatever my 10 (or 14) year old self thought I should be doing.
[…] my letter to myself? Oh, yes. I have skeletons in my underwear […]
In 11th grade I was forced to write a letter to the future in a “time capsule” and I used the opportunity to write very rude things about my teacher and school. In 100 years they are going to think I was a total jerk!
[…] This isn’t awesome like my underwear drawer. […]