06 May, 2017

Records and Remembering

My grandparents' wedding day
I was very sentimental as a teenager. There were a couple of days of my life that were so important to me at one point, that on occasions when I had nothing better to do or when I was drifting off to sleep, I’d run through the order of events in my head exactly. I’d relive the smells, sights, sensations, feelings, trying to cling on to these few perfect days so I’d remember them forever, exactly as they were.

I did this mental regurgitation perhaps every few days for about a year. I can’t say it worked in terms of cementing those specific memories in my brain – all I have now are some hazy mental snapshots, but it was fun, and felt necessary at the time.

After a while my life changed, I grew up a little, I didn’t need those extensive experiential mental records to live in any more – I had a life instead. It appears that without my say-so, my brain chucked them out as so much rubbish, along with the memory of whatever I had for breakfast on April 16th 2005, or the name of my Year 8 History teacher. Just irrelevant clutter. Thanks, brain.

With a paper or digital record, barring any accidents, we can choose what to retain or throw away, save or delete. When it comes to memories, it’s easy to forget that there’s ever a danger of completely losing important details of our own lives, because we’re busy living them. And if you can’t remember your own story, how do you know who you are? Are we all several selves, depending on those parts of our lives we can easily access at any given time?