A shocking revelation re: notes and books

Never Say Never

I'm almost certain my jaw hit the floor when I heard one of my teachers* say that he was getting rid of all of his notes from school.

It shocked me so much that I remember the moment perfectly, even though it was more than 10 years ago.

I thought he was batshit crazy.

Throwing away thousands of dollars' worth of notes? Disposing of precious herbal wisdom? What could he possibly have been thinking?

I remember knowing with certainty that I would never do such a thing.

Which naturally leads us to my next point: I got rid of all of my notes a few weeks ago.

Yes. All of my notes from school. Gone. ​

That would be notes from 4+ years of graduate school, hundreds of amazing lectures from people I'll probably never hear speak in person again. Pearls of other people's wisdom that only come from experience and deep familiarity with the field. Graded papers and assignments that I poured my heart into.

Twenty five or thirty notebooks and binders filled with notes from classes that I paid dearly to attend now grace the recycling bin or are destined to be cut up, colored on and otherwise mangled by my children.

In case you aren't horrified yet, I also purged more than half of my reference books.


It was time. I haven't opened most of them for years. I've been carrying them around like a security blanket, reassured to have them nearby "in case I need them."

I don't need them.

I've been in practice for well over a decade. I know where and from whom to seek help if I need it and that doesn't involve my notes from 2002.

In school, you rely on teachers as you learn to develop your own opinions and think more critically. I realized that I have more experience now than many of those teachers did when they taught me. I realized that some of them, even at the time they were teaching, hadn't seen a client or engaged in active research in 10 years. Some rely on paradigms that now make no sense to me. Some said things that are incorrect. Some said things that were brilliant and amazing and clear and helpful, things that I hope I never forget.

All of them served a purpose at the time. I wouldn't trade any of these experiences for other ones. I couldn't be here now, doing I job I love, without these teachers and their classes.

Looking back, though, I see that the lessons I still have to gain from those experiences don't involve the specific pieces of data each teacher conveyed. The most important things I learned - and continue to learn - involve how to analyze and understand the information, how to think about and theorize and find patterns and meaning, how to contextualize. You can't find that in my notes and books. It comes from experience.

I've been meaning to purge all of this for a few years now, and never could quite follow through with it. When the time was right, though, it wasn't hard at all.

I don't feel a single twinge of regret.

* James Snow, in case you're curious

Thoughts? Add your comments here. 

  • Wow! What a challenge! I am not ready to toss my notes from Herbal School, however I have volumes of notes from Veterinary school, and even if I did go back and try to find a topic, the information is no longer relevant. I graduated from Veterinary school in 1979. WooHoo! What a wake up call. Thank you for your sharing. Now, do you know where I can rent a tractor trailer to take all of my notes to the dump??

    • Thanks, Karen! I practically had to rent a U-Haul to get everything out :). I have considered using one of those “junk in the trunk” services to haul things away, but I’ve never actually done it…

  • Great post Camille, I can really relate to this. I am now more comfortable tossing out my old notes,. You make some good points, such as acquired experience making some of the notes less relevant. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Rebecca! Glad it helped you feel better about getting rid of your notes. It feels nice to simplify a bit 🙂

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    Camille Freeman (she/her)

    Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and reproductive health. I faciliate the Monday Mentoring community of practice and offer continuing eduation programs for highly trained herbalists & nutritionists. I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating.