I’m feeling like a historian today. Sure it might only be the history of me but that still counts as history. Y’see I keep a calendar on my computer. It’s not really a calendar as others keep one because rather than write down things that I have to do I write down things that I’ve done. Well, I do write down things that I have to do but I don’t have a very busy schedule so my calendar would be pretty empty if I took only that route.

I started keeping it a few years ago when I first worked solely from home. The problem was that I’d work on a lot of art of my own that the rest of the world has yet to see. That is the plight of the unknown artist and one of its pitfalls is feeling like you’ve done nothing. I’m usually thinking about whatever I’m doing or what I’m going to do next rather than what I’ve done. So I’ll finish a print, it’ll go into a drawer, and I’ll forget about it. Since I forget about what I’ve done that leads me to sit around and think that I’ve gotten nothing done. Not a good feeling.

My solution to that problem was to start writing down in my calendar what I accomplished that day. I might write what paying work I did, what of my own work I got done, if I went somewhere, or if I went for a bike ride. These are some of the things I note in my calendar. It’s not like I consult it all the time but if I fell like I’ve accomplished nothing then I can at least look back at it and think to myself that I got some things done.

So what does this have to do with me feeling like a historian? One word: receipts. I’ve been a freelancer since I graduated college back in December of 1988. As a consequence I kept receipts for tax purposes for almost everything I buy. I’m no tax accountant so I mostly kept them all. No one like to think about taxes. They mean you owe the government money and there is the threat of jail if you make a mistake. Sure no one with my tiny little income is going to jail but it’s still in the back of everyone’s mind. So I collect my receipts, pay my taxes, and then stick the paperwork in a closet. Years ago they were moved from the closet to the garage.

I’ve alway meant to throw it all out. I’m pretty sure I don’t need tax data from the early 1990s. But it wasn’t tucked away and the threat of identity theft always made me wonder how I properly throw it away without it being a danger. So there it sat; unthought of except to occasionally annoy me with its mere presence. Tax time this year brought them, once again, to mind. Then it struck me that maybe I could look at some old receipts and see where I was on certain days.

I’ve been cataloging my snapshots and photographs since I stared taking them sometime back in college but back in the days of film I wasn’t so good at writing down exact dates for everything. I carried a pocket camera and might take a photo one day and not for another week. As a consequence any given roll of film might have a few weeks or even months worth of film on them. A lot of my photos from the 1990s have a month but no day. A passing thought went through my head that maybe the receipts might give me a clue about the exact dates of some of my photos. So I decided to look through my old tax stuff.

It was weird. I started to feel like a historian going through someone else’s old papers. I didn’t remember anything that was in there so it was like it was new to me. The first thing I noticed it that I kept all my old pay stubs. I used to work in the Marvel Comics production bullpen as a freelancer. I wasn’t on staff so I got paid a day rate. The old check stubs had the date of every day that I worked there on them. I only worked there about half the year but there was not always a rhyme or reason to exactly which days I was there. As with anyone else who would be in that situation without these stubs I would have no idea if I was at Marvel on May 14, 1994 or not. But now I do. How strange it is to regain that information?

I haven’t gone through the receipts much just yet but it was interesting to see some of them. I now know that I bought my Atari Lynx hand held video game system in 1993. I still have it tucked away somewhere but I couldn’t have told you when I got it. I have receipts from Koenig’s Art Emporium that are from the mid-1990s. I had forgotten that store existed yet it was my local art supply store for years. I have no idea when it finally closed.

I saw some receipts for gouache paints from 1996. I’m not sure when I first started painting in gouache. I know it was a few years after college but throughout a lot of the 1990s I wasn’t too strict on putting dates on my work. Who thinks about that stuff when you’re young? Fifteen years later 1993 to 1996 can blur together. Maybe I can piece together some dates from the receipts. That would be cool.

I don’t know how much I’ll ever get done on this project of digging through the past but I think I’ll try and put some of the information into my computer’s calendar. I have some old paper calendars from the early 2000s that I wrote some events on back in the days when I used paper calendars so I’ll have to dig those things out too. The good thing about a computer calendar is that it goes back into infinity. At least I think it does. I moved mine back to the early 1990s just to see if it would go there and it did. I don’t think I’ll need it to go all the way back to 1492. Well, Unless I discover things in my garage from a previous life.