A Memoir of Memory

posted in: Uncategorized | 18

February 27th, 2012


Memories are a strange thing. So much of life goes by without ever becoming a memory. The memories we often want to keep are the ones that slip away. And of course, conversely, the things we most often want to forget are the ones we keep within us. So really, most of life is lived without retaining it mentally. Sure we have an abundance of photos, videos, tweets, and whatever else to help us remember everything that happens in our lives. Think about the kids who are growing up entirely on Facebook. I’m thankful my awkward teen years are not digitally archived.


Recently I’ve begun to write down every memory I have. A humbling exercise in writing, but also it is a chimera inducing project that may never have a completion date. Writing aside, this experiment has made me feel more in touch with myself. After all, who are we without our pasts? Of course, I’m a sucker for nostalgia. That coupled with constant reflection of everything and anything, most of my days are now spent connecting them with the past. Since I tend to be an optimistic, positive person, most of my memories are that way too. Even the sad memories are peaceful in their passing.


Dont be confused though. I’m not wistfully daydreaming my life away. On the contrary, I have only spent a minimal amount of time developing these memories into complete stories on paper.


One thing that has happened though, is that I’ve realized how little matters except the present moment. Looking back on people and things that at the time were my whole world, and now today have been reduced to a few paragraphs worth of memories puts life in perspective.


Reflecting on the past means you’re presently living in that memories future. It seems strange to me that memories never seem to care about the future. Take a moment to digest that. The same future you had all those dreams and questions about, is exactly your present moment. And again, in ten years, maybe five, you’ll be at the same place- your past’s future. I realize this seems quite complicated, but it is important.


In the very least, your present depends on it.



I realize this post may be awkward or confusing, or perhaps just poorly written. I didn’t do the topic justice, but I had to at least get the thoughts out there. I happily welcome thoughts and criticisms.

18 Responses

  1. This is my favorite line: “Looking back on people and things that at the time were my whole world, and now today have been reduced to a few paragraphs worth of memories puts life in perspective.”

    That is so very true. I think as we age and gain more memories, the past ones begin to diminish. Memories will be different now in this new age of technology and almost not as special because we may be over capturing them. Just another added thought to ponder I guess.

    Nice post. I hope you enjoy writing your memories! And I hope you can remember them all too!

    • Meg, you know I’m a sucker for nostalgia, so as the memory floodgates open, it all pours out! Strange and beautiful stuff!

  2. Score! I think I better understand your point of view about my “Remember, remember” post last week.

    • Amit, I apologize if I come across as cryptic sometimes. I often find myself thinking so quickly about things and then speaking them into conversation and folks don’t know where I’m connecting these dots. Makes me seem crazier than I am. Or so I think…

  3. I also have a bent towards nostalgia and remembering the past. I’m working on a family encyclopedia. I think that it is healthy to remember who you were and what you dreamed about. The past helps me focus my efforts on what I want to accomplish now, so that when I look back again I will know I did something worthwhile. And thank God Facebook did not exist back then: those zebra MC Hammer pants never photographed well.

    • Adam, good call on the family encyclopedia. I’ve been doing some genealogy research but your idea of an encyclopedia is even better! I’ll be stealing that perspective, thank you.

      Oh, and good call on the hammer pants. We dodged some embarrassing bullets there.

  4. Great idea! I often find that I can remember very specific details of other people, what they said or did, in a given situation, but rarely my own. The act of restoring those memories on paper alone should do well to rustle up long forgotten ones. A tidying of the brain files.

    More recently, I’ve begun to journal my current affairs in a similar manner. I find too often that I have little reason to write more than a few short lines at any given time. This I feel leaves a weak cognitive bond with my words, and what I have felt. Writing in long form helps to reinforce my thoughts and views on life.

    • Charlie, it is a challenge to sit down and write long form. At least, for me it is. But you’re right, in order to really make connections, it helps to go deep. Then again, sometimes I only jot down ideas and thoughts and it helps to know at least it’s sort of there.

  5. This was wonderful. I love reflecting and thinking back, gleaning some wisdom but….

    I really think you are on to something. i have whole years where i can’t remember a thing except commuting to work and being stuck in thick t San Francisco traffic. I wish i had recorded my thoughts back then.

    I have pictures where I can’t even remember where i was or what i was thinking and i feel sad.

    for the past month, ‘ve been collecting all my pictures, short videos and putting them toether in montages and narrating if i have to.
    In regards to your pasts future. I’m working on a video with me and the kids where we talk to our future selves. where we are and where we think we will be. I know people usually write these letters to their future self but i’m a visual person and it sounded like a good idea.
    It’s quite strange and surreal to talk to your future self though. Give it a try.

    • Annie, thanks for the encouragement! You’re on to something there with a message to your future selves. Your kids will be thankful for it!

      It’s a crazy thing that we can live entire years without many memories of what it is exactly that we were doing. I guess journaling, or blogging, is a fine way to track progress and see exactly where we’ve been.

      It is a fantastic exercise to try and seek out memories though!

  6. I think that people get wrapped up in “making” or “capturing” a memory, rather than truly experiencing it. This was me… camera in hand. I learned to break free from this by doing some extended backpacking through Costa Rica. Only used a notebook and debriefed at the end of the day. Almost 3 years later, when I read it, it still brings me back! A photo doesn’t do that.

    • Keirsten, I wrote a piece a while back similar to what you’re taking about.


      The notebook idea is a great one! My girlfriend did the same thing when she was in costa rica! It must be something you have to do while there! šŸ™‚

  7. I’m no Ekhart Tolle, but I have become much more friendly with the present over the last several years. It’s a something Kent and I try to be very mindful of ā€“ dis-identifying with our past and not living our lives focused on some promise of the future. All we have is now, literally, and it is exactly as it should be.

    Knowing from where you come is important, but we have to be careful not to identify with the story we tell ourselves. The past has no power over the present moment, it is nothing more than a reoccurring dream that we can, at any moment, simply decide to awaken from.

    > Iā€™m thankful my awkward teen years are not digitally archived.

    Right?! Thank f’ing goodness for that…

    • Caanan, what you’re talking about is incredibly difficult to do. That separation from the past and not trying to live on the promises of the future… A lesson I’m learning while in Florida. It seems that a lot of the things we want to do may or may not happen. But when they don’t happen it can be quite a let down. Stuck, on the promises of the future. Interesting thoughts!

  8. I have often thought back at the things that worried and bothered me in the past and been reminded of how insignificant they are in my present. This helps me let a lot of stuff and nonsense in my present day drift off, (doesn’t always work and neither would I want to always be mellow and untouched by current events). But because I am aware of this I can choose what to get het up about. I try every day to live like my dog, in that only the next five minutes is what should concern me. I have limited control of the future and no control over the past.

    • Pea, I hope youve written about that before… Or if you haven’t yet, you should. Life as a dog.

      I may steal that idea actually. Thank you very much! šŸ™‚

  9. Steal away! I’ve written something similar as my dog’s coolness, acceptance, eternal happiness and ease with life never ceases to amaze me, but I would LOVE to read your version. Write it! Write it!

  10. Memories are pretty powerful! In my most recent blog post I talk about being familiar with good memories as a way to take care of my happiness. I think you are right, without effort, we lose track of memories we want to savor while traumatic memories seem to be carved into our deepest realms of being.

    I don’t record events very often, but I do love to record my transient thoughts. I learn a lot about myself by practicing free writing then reading it days, weeks, years later.

    Yes! The practice of writing about events can help us put things into perspective, and reading what was written at some point in the future makes it easier to let go of related suffering we are carrying in the present.

    One more thing… Suffering a traumatic brain injury has altered my memory in interesting ways. In some areas, I can remember who I was before the accident but am acutely aware that I am presently different. For example, before the accident I cared a whole heap about what I ate. Hell I was a raw foodist for almost one year. After the accident I simply didn’t (and still don’t to the same degree) care about food. I remember that I loved reading but know that it simply isn’t as enjoyable now. More frustrating is the fact that sometimes I simply can’t remember who I was or what I was like before I fell.

    All of this is a gift. All of this has forced me to get to know myself in the now and let go of whomever or however I was in the past. I don’t want to anguish over the differences of self i remember or want the memories back (ok sometimes I do), I want to continue to get to know and love myself as I am right now.

    Hope all is well!!!

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