How many t-shirts do you have? If you run, you probably have quite a few. Each race comes with the obligatory t-shirt. I had thirty-two. Not all were from races, though many were. Each Peachtree Road Race came with one and each Warrior Dash. Working for Peace Corps had me accumulate a few through the various RPCV groups with whom I associate. I have many from the University of Dayton and the various activities I participated in; some from teams I’ve been a part of as an adult, both kickball and softball.
Who needs that many t-shirts? I couldn’t wear them all in a month. But when I arrived home from The Container Store today with my boxes for storage and my trash bags for Goodwill, I was confronted with my t-shirts. The most I need are eight, I figured. If I decided to work out every day for a week (ha!), I’d need seven. I sleep in a t-shirt too.
How do you decide which t-shirts to keep? I must confess there was no way I could rid myself of twenty-four t-shirts. As ridiculous as this may sound, most of them mean something to me. Each run, each organization, each school function brings back memories. One lists all the countries I visited in Fall 2005 on Semester at Sea. One has the motto and insignia of the Marines that I befriended at the embassy in Guinea. One was the uniform of the Blue Team, those of us who helped freshmen move into their dorms. My participation in Blue Team led to me meeting one of my best friends in college. It was overwhelming but I was consistently confronted with the fact that I could not in good conscious hold on to that many t-shirts for no reason other than each evoked a special memory.
I decided to keep one of each color that I owned, for my use while I remain in the states: blue, orange, white, black, green, gray, red and maroon. I picked my favorites, those I find myself wearing almost weekly. Then I removed the t-shirts that meant very little to me- one I received at a career fair, another from a blood drive. Some were faded from overuse. Some had holes. Some were covered in paint. The rest went into the watertight container to be reopened in two and half years when I return. While I probably kept more than any one person actually needs, I’m living with it.
T-shirts are not glamorous or stylish. I rarely wear them outside of the house except to work out. But each one represents a piece of me, a moment of my life that helped form me into who I am. They’re a chance to start a conversation, “Oh, did you go to the University of Dayton?” or “I ran the Peachtree in 2011 too; wasn’t that brutal?” They’re a reminder of what was and very soon they will be a connection back home. And I guess I’m ok with that.