You have done and had more interesting experiences than you know.
No, I’m not saying your experiences were more interesting than you’ve given them credit for.
What I’m saying is you don’t remember having them.
Memory, as it turns out, is terrifyingly fragile.
“The vast majority of the things that are happening to me in my life — the conscious experience I’m having right now — I’m most likely not going to remember when I’m 80.” – Michael Anderson, memory researcher at the University of Cambridge.
Not only do we not remember everything, our memories can also be altered.
“Memories aren’t static. If you remember something in the context of a new environment and time, or if you are even in a different mood, your memories might integrate the new information.” – Donna Bridge, postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“When you think back to an event that happened to you long ago – say your first day at school – you actually may be recalling information you retrieved about that event at some later time, not the original event.” – Ken Paller, professor of psychology at Northwestern in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
So, what are we to do? What bulwark exists against our memory altering and erasing minds?
The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory.
But you already knew that.
In fact, you probably already have a journal somewhere. A book of sporadic entries; oft begun but seldom continued.
Well, this is your evocation to pick it up again.
Commit the tidbits of your life to paper. And remember, you’re not writing for anyone else but you. So, don’t worry about style, quality, or formatting. Just write.
Write about chocolate dipped ice cream in the park; the joy of Autumn colors; the copper penny in the parking lot you didn’t pick up, and how eight-year-old you wouldn’t believe it; the first wear hole in your favorite grey hoodie; the dining room chair that rocks because one leg lost its felt pad; the little yellow flowers growing from the cracked concrete; the rainbow you saw driving to work; and how you were two states away when grandma passed before you could make it home to say goodbye.
Write about big and small matters. Write odd thoughts and disjointed beliefs. And write like your life depends on it.
Because it does.
Your brain is erasing your life.
And once gone, your journal is the only place you’ve lived.
– Zac Smith, VC