Scrapbooking through school

Photo courtesy of Natalie Boutwell, Student Publications

This past summer, I started a new project. With the risks of the pandemic restricting my usual summer travels and plans, I needed an activity, outside of my classes, to entertain my time.

Upon my mom’s suggestion, I began to make my college scrapbook.

I ordered a navy-blue album from Michaels and collected all of the memorabilia I had saved from my first two and a half years at Tech: my acceptance letter, ticket stubs from football games, souvenirs from study abroad.

I started to organize page after page with these memories and photos, stickers and small, handwritten anecdotes. Scrapbooking soon became one of my favorite activities.

Multiple times throughout the summer, my mom and I would scrapbook together. Since my two sisters and I were babies, she has created albums of our childhood.

Oftentimes, she worked on my youngest sister’s photo album while I worked on my college album. We would chat or watch our favorite TV shows while working side by side, enjoying each other’s company in the present while preserving the memories of the past.

One of my irrational fears is that I will forget all of the events, places and people that were once so meaningful to me. Sometimes when I can’t remember the name of my favorite elementary school teacher or when I forget where a certain picture is from, I think about how fragile and fleeting our memories truly are.

Our collective memories – our history – are protected in textbooks and archives of important documents. But what about our own personal memories?

In today’s social media obsessed society, most people choose to keep their memories online with platforms like Facebook and Instagram. I’ve long avoided making my own social media accounts, turned away by the pressures of deciding what to post. To me, posting on social media seems more like a competition than a way to share or preserve stories.

I prefer a more traditional form to keep my memories: in a journal, a notebook or a scrapbook. In these formats, I don’t have to worry about finding the perfect picture with my best outfit and the most scenic view to get the most likes.

I can just focus on creating my own narrative. In an unprecedented time like this, scrapbooking is a way to take back control. Like all art, scrapbooking is freeing in the way that it is open to possibilities. There is no right answer and no guidelines or rubric one has to follow: a refreshing experience for a student tired of comparison.

In the future, when I open up my college scrapbook, I know I will smile. I will be able to see everything: from my nervous freshman self on the first day of move-in to my proud senior self on graduation day.

I will be able to see the best parts of college – photos of my smiling roommates on our Spring Break trip to the beach – and the challenging parts of college – photos of my fellow marching band members wearing masks and playing instruments in socks.

Scrapbooking, to me, is more than a craft. It is a way to create a bond with my mom, sharing a common activity we both enjoy. It is a way to ensure my memories are preserved in an everlasting format.

And it is a way for my future self to reflect on the highs, lows and in-betweens of my college experience. In some ways, I am grateful for the blank space the pandemic created this summer because it gave me my favorite new hobby.