Traits and Tribulations of Memory

My Mother asks me what I had for dinner last night, and I sit there with this blank stare on my face. It feels like the information got wiped clear from my mind, as though I’m a corrupted computer file. The idea of my mind being like some document or application on a computer is sort of humorous, but at the same time, frustrating to no end. I want to remember, but I simply can’t; it’s gone, and I have to tell my Mom an embarrassed, “I’ve got no clue.”

This sort of memory wipe happens far more often than I would like to admit. I like to think that my memory is fairly good, but it is extraordinarily selective on what to remember and what to forget. Instead of remembering important things, like due dates, or when to be somewhere, or even someone’s name, my mind decides to stuff itself with songs. My mind stores random facts, numbers, books, and ideas for drawings.

These things aren’t useful for school, or anything like that, but I still seem to need them. Relaxation is what my stressed and anxious mind strives for, and these tools supply the remedy. A panic attack can be held back by a song. Dread and depression seem to be kept at bay by drawing. Without this relaxation, I would be in a very bad place. So in this way, the fact that I remember such odd things is beneficial to my well-being, and I wouldn’t know what to do if my memory was not as such.

An example of memories is when my family went to Balboa park. We walked around for a long time, visiting museums, watching the street performers, and visiting the International Houses. They had houses representing the various countries; Scotland, China, Israel, and many, many more.

We went to the house of Italy, and got some wonderful ice cream and lemonade from them. We were really tired, so the entire group went out and sat on the patio of the house, relaxing, talking, and eating our ice cream. This older gentleman came up to the same table that we were sitting at, and sat as well, without a word. None of us had any clue why he had just sat down.

We recognized the man as a volunteer at the house of Italy, and brought it up to him, just curious. He said that he was tired, and just wanted to rest a bit, that he could only stand around for so long before becoming uncomfortable because of it. There was idle conversation for a bit, before he got into a story about his service in World War II. My Mother and Stepfather thanked him for his service, the both of them Navy veterans themselves. He shook off their thanks, and got a little bit sad from their kind words, then he went into this long story about the depression, and his family needing him, and that he had gotten drafted.

It was clear that he hadn’t want to be in the military at all, and was forced into it. I’m not sure whether or not it truly bothered him anymore, but the memories of that time seemed to really upset him. He didn’t complain about today’s politics, nor did he have anything to say about the sports game. The veteran spoke from his heart about a memory from so long ago instead of something recent.

From a different memory, when I lived in Virginia, there was a tree that I absolutely loved, and I only remember the tree because of the love that I have for that environment. The tree had a thick branch hanging out over the calm water of the lake. It was a common place for me to sit on, and think about the world, and about life in general.

I really tended to appreciate that small oasis, away from all the drama of home life, and all the rejection of middle school. When there, it was like I could fall asleep without the trouble normally involved. Normally, sleep is not something easily obtained, rather, it could take hours of staring at the ceiling to nod off. I spend thirty minutes at this tree, and I am almost lulled into sleep by the sounds of the lake lapping against it’s shore.

I miss the times where I could sit there, or at other places along the lake’s shore, and just let the whole world slip away. Those memories are some of my most cherished, and thus my most vivid ones as well. I am glad that these memories played such a role in my life, because otherwise, I may not remember the happiest times of my life. Just a tree, and a lake, and stillness.

In the case of the man at Balboa Park, he remembered all the way back to WWII. The morose look on his face at the memory, and overall demeanor, it was saddening, even to someone who never experienced anything like it. While he remembered something so life-changing, and wished to talk about it, my little memory meant nothing to anyone but me. I remember him speaking to our family, I remember my tree, but there are so many instances that I don’t remember at all.

From little things like dates and names, to larger events like a war and a family holiday, I forget the things that are important to other people. I remember little emotional moments that have no meaning anymore, but can’t remember 9/11. It is incredibly frustrating, but that’s just my memory. It is how my trait of memory works things out, but it won’t be the exact same with anyone else. I wouldn’t really trade it for the world though, even with how annoying it can be. The annoyingness of it is just a side-effect. My memory works in a way that has shaped me to be who I am today, still alive and happy. Even though I cannot get bad experiences out of my mind, I can still use my mind to pull up songs to sing to myself that will brighten my day.