I keep a lot of old papers. A LOT. When our moving van rolled over in an accident outside Los Angeles last summer, some people speculated that I didn’t have enough possessions to make this matter that much. The answer is papers. It’s all (mostly) papers.

Indeed, I’ve been known to say that I live much of my life as though I can assume that some archivist will eventually come in and take an interest in my old papers. Granted, that archivist may just be an older me at some point, but I still see a paper discarded as a grave tragedy. I’ve recently been able to do some purges of the really meaningless stuff, such as old receipts and bills, but it’s still pretty hard to get me to cut papers that I’ve taken the time to put pen to.

Often (as with the linked audio clip above), this is the reasonable subject of a small amount of lampoonery. But every now and then, even pre-archivist era, true gems emerge from the boxes and folders that justify the whole project. While searching for Emily’s immunization card last night, she ran across the following:


Click image for larger size (legible!) view.

This document, circa mid-September 2002, was our outline of how to financially survive until October 2002. This crude effort at a budget, made shortly after we’d secured our first apartment, illustrated how close we were to running out of money at the time, especially with the desire to acquire a deftly illustrated “feline friend”. Emily and I remember the ensuing period as the “Month of Ramen”, when we holed up in our house with job listings and hot noodle soup and tried to figure out how we’d spend the next years of our life in the startlingly real world. Despite our concern that we wouldn’t make it till October 2nd jobless, it wasn’t until October 18th that one of us actually secured employment (my part-time job at Chapman).

We never went into debt or had to ask our parents for help. But we sure didn’t know it when we were drafting that document. We had no idea what the future looked like, but it looked potentially bleak. I know it’s no solace to the class of 2010, given how much worse job prospects are in the US now than eight years ago, but it is impressive how well life can turn out despite its scariest early rumblings.

I’m not sure whether I’m more horrified by the idea that we thought $30 could be a monthly cable bill or impressed by the idea that we thought to create this paper in such a forward-thinking light. It seems written for posterity, like some sort of declaration or defining document. Ultimately, I think we were just hoping it wouldn’t be our monetary epitaph.