#8: Embracing who you are
Hi, my name is Nick, and I forget almost everything.
Do you know who you are? Do you embrace it?
I’m an organised person. I like being organised. But I also like to think of myself as being flexible. These things are at conflict. I’m forced to choose which side I’m on, and I have so far ping-ponged back and forth. Undecided. Jumping the fence again and again.
I know that I have a terrible memory. Let me first explain how terrible.
On Monday if you — like my colleagues — asked me what I did over the weekend, there’s a 90 percent chance that I’d blank out.
If you asked me — like my wife — whether I remember about that time that we went to Turkey and saw that cute litter of kittens and how our daughter absolutely loved them, there’s a very good chance I would not remember that it happened.
My memory is so bad that I sometimes feel like I live day to day. Yesterday’s events would have been forgotten by today.
But despite how bad it is, it’s clear to me that I haven’t embraced this. I haven’t owned “being a person with terrible memory.” My response seems to mostly be to shrug it off. Meh.
What I mean by embrace isn’t “hehe yeah I have a bad memory, you’ll forgive me for forgetting to do the dishes!” What I mean by embrace is arranging my life completely around it like it’s a dependency that is forever going to be there.
To give you an idea of the problems that come out of this, despite knowing that I have a bad memory…
I still occasionally buy and read physical books instead of digital ones. Without a computer doing text search on my annotations, my annotations might as well not exist, which means I might as well not have spent time reading nonfiction
I don’t take enough photos and videos that I’m sure will be the ONLY way I’ll remember about events that actually took place
This one’s going to sound ironic, but I don’t think I write enough logs about my life to document my thoughts for future me to reference.
Those last two points are a big deal for someone like me, if you think about it. If you know you cannot rely on remembering what happened even just the day before, wouldn’t you find it really stupid to not go all out and build some safeguards?
What will happen to me when I’m 45 years old, my daughter is a teenager, and I have nothing beyond a couple of photos and videos to remember how we used to spend our time together as a young family in Düsseldorf?
I know I will weep. I will weep daily as my mind tries desperately to grasp at the ghosts of my memories.
The thing is, reminiscence isn’t even the only thing that becomes nearly impossible. How would I know how I have grown (or regressed) as a person if I’m unable to render a clear image of who I was, how I thought, and what I did?
I don’t know about you, but for me, as I write this, I’m getting frightened.
And yet I can see that I harbour hopes that I’ll miraculously remember my life and its myriad shared experiences and secret thoughts. That I’ll be able to piece it all together. Maybe I’ll have hours-long conversations with my wife to reconstruct scenes with her memories and make them mine. As if she’d know how I was thinking 1, 5, or 30 years ago.
I’m not sure of the solution, but I’m sure that inaction is not it. Inaction in this case would simply make that frightening future a gradual reality.
If I embraced the cold, solid fact that I am someone with a terrible memory, as inevitable as an animal needs to eat, then the first thing I should do is stop pretending like I am not that.
The second and perhaps only other thing that I think needs to happen is to rearrange my life around this fact. To embrace is to encircle. That requires a repositioning.
I’ll end with this thought: If I am so bad at remembering, and I believe that the only way to help me remember is to externalise the internal, through writing, for example, then maybe I should acknowledge that I need to — as a prerequisite to living a decent life — write every single day.
Maybe I need to recognise that writing is not a luxury or a hobby but a necessity to me.
Side note, that image generated by DALL-E 3 using ChatGPT Plus is insane. It’s so specific to me! I’ll probably write my thoughts about it in a coming post.