In high school I was left a memory in the Last Will and Testament of my senior year book. That year, while juggling two part time jobs, an internship with IBM, a relationship and high school I managed to forget every single thing that I was supposed to remember. Every day when I climbed on the bus that would transport me and my classmates to the IBM campus for our internship, I would realize I had left a text book, notebook, my homework assignment, my keys, my something.
“STOP!” I would shout at the driver, dash off the bus muttering what it was I had forgotten that day. It got to the point where the driver would see me and ask if I had everything. I contributed my memory issues to the lack of vitamin B complex in my diet, because I had given up beef my junior year. It became a part of my personality. Forcing me to create a routine that would leave little room to lose of forget anything. My super power (yes super power and that wasn’t my only one) was to be able to retrace my steps and figure out what I had either lost or forgotten. It also was the genesis of my fascination with memory. I have memories of being a toddler, playing with my sister in her baby swing to the very moment I first saw my oldest son’s face for the first time. But I promise you I can’t recall what I wore yesterday, or what was on my well planned family dinner menu last week. Unlike my dear friend, I never put too much thought in how memory works, but what tricks can I use to keep it from crippling my life.
In college I would get my first Filofax, an expensive complicated planner that was an extension of my brain. Later I would somehow get my hands on a PalmPilot and then in 2007 an iPhone. I adapted a saying “if you did not see me write it down, you might as well say you didn’t tell me.” I would see something or someone would give me a date and I promise I had ever intention to remember to put it on my calendar later, but without avail the details would be replaced with a nagging feeling I was forgetting something. What I remember I remember with such clarity that it scares me sometimes, but what I forget… Well whatever I forget is lost in an abyss of darkness.
I do recognize there are parts of my life gone forever, never to be retrieved or maybe remembered by someone who is a stranger to me now, but is part of their life story. There are also parts of my life that I recall like it was yesterday, like a summer top I loved to wear when I was 12 years old living in Chicago, or the train ride from New York to Chicago when I was eight. Our brains are magical, mystical organs that keep scientist busy trying to unlock the answers it holds.
Memories are just that, memories. They can unlock who we are, our fears or our passion, though abstract in the present, they hold the power to hold us back or push us through. They can provide warm feelings or horrid nightmares, but they are necessary. I think that is why my favorite African proverb is Sankofa: in order to move forward, one must know their past, but not to dwell so long that your get stuck.