This is the big project I worked on over December and January, a book containing all my childhood (and early adulthood) keepsakes and journals.
I’m really happy with the result. The book is big, and heavy – but it really ties all my various keepsakes together well, and takes up a lot less space than the boxes used to. It covers everything from my early childhood through 2010. Although I was certainly an ‘adult’ by 2010, I still felt like a child in many ways – living at home, no job, no focus, no responsibilities. But I really felt like an adult for the first time after going abroad and working my first full time job in Korea – managing my own money, leading a class full of real children, making my own life decisions completely separate from my family.
I think the reason I worked so hard on this book was to make a clean break with my own past – to let go of everything that came before, and move forward into the future without baggage from my past. I never want to forget who I was as a ‘child’ – but I want to put it behind me. If I ever feel nostalgic and want to visit the past, now everything can be found in one place – neatly laid out in chronological order.
Here’s a sample of what’s in the book.
This is a page with my school pictures, from 1st – 8th grade, next to that is an essay I wrote in 3rd grade about my earliest memories – living in Inglewood, a really rough neighborhood in LA where I spent the first 7 years of my life. It includes happy things – my dad teaching me to ride a bike – as well as sad and scary things – such as being trapped by the LA riots and witnessing a gang related shooting.
These are scanned documents: My first doodles on the computer; letters written to my then best friend, John Slovachek; a short article about me in the school newspaper; My christmas lists, in an envelope addressed to Santa Claus at 7353 North Pole (yes, somehow I determined Santa’s exact address).
When I was young, I had a LOT of stuffed animals. I would arrange them on my bed and sleep with them like a big, messy, lumpy mattress. I’ve kept a few special ones, and given the rest away – but I posed all of them for one last photo shoot before sending them away.
These are pictures of all my old art projects. Going through all of them, I remembered how much I used to love art. I remember when I was a kid and lost my teeth – instead of getting money from the tooth fairy I would usually get art supplies, and used all of them. I also got quite into painting and ceramics in high school. I’ve now got a drawing set and new sketchbook, maybe I will get back to my drawing.
These are toys and other objects that held a special place in my heart. Many of these picture were actually taken years ago – back then I had no idea I would make this scrapbook, but I knew I couldn’t bring myself to throw the toys away without taking a picture, and I knew I would do SOMETHING with the pictures, someday.
The rest of the book is one long narrative, mostly from my high school and college days. Back then I was heavily into blogging – and in the days before Facebook and Myspace took over social networking, me and my friends all shared blog entries on LiveJournal. I used these blog entries, with their date stamps to give the book a chronological order – mixing the other pictures and scans into the text. Below is a typical page from my time studying at Soonchunhyang in Korea.
This book was HARD to make. There are some days I look at it on my shelf and still shudder to think about the work that went into it. Organizing the posts from different blogging services, mixing my paper journal and blog entries into one timeline, sorting thousands of photos to select those that matched the written record. Not to mention the emotional baggage of actually tossing my papers, toys and keepsakes once I was done documenting them.
On the technical side I tried several different software programs, none of which worked out, before I finally landed on Adobe InDesign. Using that program was kind of like using a bazooka to kill a fly – a bit of overkill., but it gave me beautiful results. I formatted text exactly how I wanted it, I had nice control over graphics and how they mixed with the text, and I could keep the whole huge book in order. The only trick was I could not afford the software, which sells for ~$500, so I used the 30 day trial period offered by Adobe – I made it, but just barely.
I used the online service Blurb.com to do the printing, and in total it cost ~150 (saved $30 with a holiday coupon) for the whole book. It’s big – 11×13 inches (22x28cm), the maximum allowed 440 pages and weighs in at 6.5 lbs. (~3kg). But as I said, this will be SO much easier to carry with me through life than the boxes and boxes of keepsakes I had, and it also allows me access to my personal history in a new, fun way.
For example I visited my 90 year old grandmother 2 weeks ago, and I was able to show her my pictures and let her read my blog entries from my time studying in Korea. She does not know how to use a computer very well and was unable to read my weekly reports back then- but now she got to read all about my time over there in a format she is familiar with. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I’m quite proud of it. I got the idea for this almost one year ago, and I’m happy I finished it.