Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
August 14, 2022

Why I cherish my sticker collection

By AASHI MENDPARA | November 29, 2021

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COURTESY OF AASHI MENDPARA

Since she was a child, Mendpara has documented her memories in the form of stickers.

My life savings are stored in seven 5.5 x 8.5 faux leather journals. A bit odd, but it’s true. When I was a child, and someone asked me the classic “If you had to save three things during a fire, what would they be?” my answer was always (in this order) my dog, my glasses and my journals. In these books, you will find doodles drawn in the deep hours of the night, dreams scribbled while I was half asleep and, most importantly, my never-ending collection of stickers. 

I am an avid sticker collector — not in the “I need a gold star from my teacher” way, but in an “If I don’t buy that dinosaur sticker from that shop right now, I will cry” way. I remember getting a Lisa Frank sticker sheet from my second grade teacher’s treasure box and feeling a newfound infatuation creeping up on me. I still don’t know what changed at that moment; perhaps it was the neon colors or the quintessential ‘90s glitter, but stickers became my pride and joy (no, this is not an exaggeration). I was obsessed. 

I guess collecting stickers was my way of capturing memories as a child. My favorite way to kill time after school was flipping through every single page in my journals, tracing the edges of each sticker to reminisce about my most cherished experiences. The idea of being able to hold onto memories and relive my favorite adventures through sticky paper was fascinating. 

My gold stars share the stories of my friends and I spending recess stealing the stickers from playground poles, and my turtle stickers remind me of dragging my parents into gift shops after looking through their glass windows. I have stickers from strangers I met during my rare trips on the Metro in Chicago and even more from the friends and family I see regularly. 

Stickers are a constant reminder of the people I have met, the conversations I have had and the lessons I have learned. 

Before I understood the idea of having multiple sticker books, I remember sobbing for hours after finishing my first journal. I had spent months collecting different stickers, and I was devastated. I had known that the end of the book was near, so I spent a few hours one weekend carefully peeling off different stickers and layering them on top of each other (desperate times call for desperate measures). I genuinely thought that the end of a single journal was the end of my sticker-collecting escapades, until my mom got sick of me and handed me another journal. 

Thinking about this story nearly 13 years later is comical because I can’t believe something as trivial as the end to a sticker collection was so heartbreaking. But, I understand how I felt. It was my favorite thing in the world, something I always had with me 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It had to have hurt thinking that I had to leave behind something that meant so much to me. But when I used to ask myself why I keep these mediocre journals with nearly peeling stickers so close to my heart, I couldn’t figure it out.

I recently pulled out a journal to show a friend (side note: I brought three to college and will absolutely showcase them to anyone that asks to see them), and I found myself telling them every single story behind every single sticker. For all I know, they could have been bored out of their mind, but I found myself loving every minute of it. Maybe it's the nostalgia that comes from being able to look at something that brought me so much joy in my childhood. 

It was a simpler time. We didn’t worry about navigating relationships, adulting, finding our path in college and beyond. As children, we found delight in collecting pretty pieces of paper and sticking them to random things. Frankly, I still run to places to grab a few stickers to add to my collections. Perhaps that is why I can’t help but treasure the decals and prints from childhood. 

I remember starting my freshman year in hopes that I would continue to have experiences and memories that spark joy. Luckily, I have — my sticker collection has grown and I continue to add to my list of worthwhile experiences. 

Whether that be covering my laptop case with stickers my friends give me after a week of stress and chaos or adding decals to my book from one-day trips to Hampden, Hopkins has shown me the answer as to why these journals mean so much to my heart. 

They’re books that contain everlasting reminders of my happiest and fondest moments, experiences where I felt most content and the most alive. Stickers capture memories, a moment in time preserved in a tiny journal so I can never forget that that day, I lived. 

Aashi Mendpara is a freshman from Orlando, Fla. studying Cognitive Science and Sociology. Her column discusses the formative memories and experiences that continue to shape her perspective on life's narrative.

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