Paperwork: A Life’s Work in Futility


I spent yesterday filling rubbish bags with paperwork and novels that have occupied this earth longer than I have myself. I’ve found exams, which were sat the year I was born and meticulously gathered, and adapted folders of notes, which are completely obsolete. I couldn’t help but allow my mind to drift towards the philosophical as I discarded it all with minimal prejudice.

It really made me think: do we spend our lives accumulating a bank of resources that only reaches completion when it is being thrown in a recycling heap?

It’s a relatively universal principal that teaching functions on relevance and contemporary culture. When it ceases to excite or interest students it no longer serves a purpose. Therefore, I don’t regret discarding it. However, there is a certain tragedy I feel in dumping someone else’s life work.

Moreover, even more tragically I took around seventy-five per cent of by classroom library and donated it. Bags of novels that people agonised over producing to be published. Novels that they succeeded in publishing and selling. They have spent the last few years gathering dust in my classroom and will no doubt gather dust somewhere else for the foreseeable future.

A life’s work flung unceremoniously into a bin-liner.

It seems tragic in one way; though, they are merely the material waste. The notes and resources that I recycled most likely gave generations of students the school results they wanted. And, by extension, the lives they wanted.

The novels I snubbed may have inspired previous generations in ways that they never thought imaginable!

I suppose what it really condenses to is the legacy you leave which survives in the work that you have done. The materials that facilitated that work are mere kindling for a funeral pyre. The people that were once inspired by the now ‘rubbish’ are the real legacy of that work.


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