I always love to hear about someone’s childhood. I imagine their linoleum kitchen floors and cluttered study desks, the sounds of 90s pop bouncing off some nearby speaker and with the sun always falling into the room at the perfect angle. It’s funny how any time previous to where we are today, is considered simpler. I love to sit silently and laugh at stories told by big groups, who went to school together, and trying to visualise what each 30-year-old looked like as a teenager. Who was the ring leader? Who was the popular girl? Who was always getting in trouble?
I’ve moved around a lot growing up which means I never had the opportunity to watch anyone grow up or to grow up with. My life was segregated by three to four year blocks during which I attended a new school, tried making new friends, finally found a group of friends and then had to move shortly after. No one has seen me go through all the innocence, angst, confusion and drama of grades 1 through 12 nor can they imagine what I was like before they met me. Each new school brought a familiar feeling of anxiety, nervousness, excitement at this potentially being ‘the one’ and the acknowledgement that it probably wasn’t.
I was at a friend’s house the other night and we were talking about memories, which made me realise that I had almost none. I can kind of remember the various homes we lived in, the facade of a school I went to and a few specific conversations with people, but other than that it’s quite hard for me to picture anything more specific. I don’t remember what my routine was, what I thought about, the things I liked or the places I went. I’m not sure if this is a function of there just being so many versions of this through the five countries I lived in, or some subconscious mechanism of just going through the motions.
Apparently having a robust sense of yourself helps you remember things better. This makes sense because if you are sure of yourself and the things around you, they become strong parts of your life and the way you see the world. If you’re unsure of who you are and maybe trying to adapt constantly to changing situations, it’s possible that your memories are weaker than others. Memories are what many parts of our lives are built upon. It’s the things that have happened to us that have helped us grow into the people we are today. So for those of us whose memories aren’t as defined, it could mean that we were still struggling to find ourselves and define who we wanted to be. Constant change makes it very difficult to agree on a sense of self which is why I feel that the lack of memories can partly be attributed to a time of growth and discovery.
This way of thinking makes it clear that you need to put yourself first. Understand who you are and the rest of the world will make more sense. On days when I feel confident and sure of what I’m doing, I am more focused and tuned in to what’s going on around me and so I remember more. When this understanding becomes tenuous, things feel too fluid to keep track of. It’s interesting to think about how memories are not something that lie hidden in the past but are happening right now, today. Each moment is the chance to make a new memory and your view of yourself can determine how long that will last for you.