David Bowie’s death lent a surreal start to the year 2016. As a young teen, I was an obsessed Bowie superfan: 1986 through ’88, his discography to date was a constant in my Walkman. I still have a copy of the Rolling Stone 1987 cover issue, tattered but intact. The Glass Spider Tour at Kemper Arena in Kansas City was my first live concert (my dad was my date). I watched and re-watched Labyrinth and The Hunger until every snippet of dialogue was etched in my skull.
Though my music interests diverged long ago, when I learned of Bowie’s death in January, it felt like losing an old close friend.
Recently I had some time to reminisce upon my Bowie years as I’d archived them. I found the glossy concert programs, several carefully-clipped NME articles, that old Rolling Stone issue. I’m happy I had a few artifacts like this to prompt memories. I found the nostalgia trip refreshing. My fangirlism back then, as silly as it seems, was absolutely earnest, unabashed. And as it spanned such formative years, Bowie fandom was a joyful state that mitigated difficult experiences. The pubescent hell of junior high. A wholesale move across the country with my family.
Reaching back over three decades, connecting with this younger self through paper records brought to mind the meaning of a personal archive. I’m a record-keeper by profession. Perhaps archiving is in my blood? I’ve kept a private journal in some form since 4th grade. I have a stash of favorite letters from the pre-email olden days. Band flyers. Friendship books. Newspaper clippings. Zines and more zines. Maybe I’m just a hoarder with narcissistic tendencies.
Either way, the library of my youth’s remnants remains a powerful source of introspection. I visit it rarely these days, during this busy phase of life. But as with this recent Bowie-motivated sojourn, I always feel renewed after spending some time among these historical records. I enjoy gazing backward upon life – not for long, just a little while. Even when I stumble across mementos of the more discomforting or sorrowful events of the past, I’m reminded that time’s passage allows perspective. Given time, mere survival of one’s darkest moments may prove the brightest proof of perseverance.
My personal archive reminds me where I’ve been, who I’ve been, and the strength of my own resilience.
I consider these helpful notes-to-self in a brutal post-Bowie era.