If You Could Forget…Would You?

Willow tree

When my book, The Forgetting Spell, came out, readers were particularly intrigued by one of the book’s hypothetical questions: If I could wish to have certain memories erased, knowing that my wish would come true, would I? If so, which memories, moments or events might I want to forget?

It’s a sticky question. So much of who I am is based on what I’ve experienced and how I’ve handled situations. Experiencing grief, for example, is terribly painful, but it gives me a greater capacity to empathize with others. Failing is no fun, but if I only experienced — or remembered experiencing — success, then I’d be pretty full of myself, no doubt. And heartache? Ah, I can’t imagine choosing to erase that, tempting as it is. Not when the heartache was authentic. Again, my heart beats and grows and expands as a result of all of those experiences, joyful as well as painful. My guess is that this holds true for most of us.

And yet, the dross of life — would I honestly want to hold onto all of it? No. If I were given the gift of erasing certain memories, I wouldn’t want to abuse that gift, but I wouldn’t want to squander it, either.

So here is my answer: I would consider erasing memories of times when people said things or did things to me out of malice or lack of consideration. Things that eroded my self-esteem. Remarks like “You’d be pretty if not for your nose” or “your boobs are the size of mosquito bites.” I remember those remarks clearly: Who said them, where, and when. Oh — here’s another one that has stuck with me since I was a teenager. Brad, captain of our high school baseball team, took it upon himself to tell me that I wasn’t beautiful, nor would I ever be, but not to feel too bad. I wasn’t beautiful, but I could pass for “cute.”

I took nothing away from that exchange but shame, shame that made no rational sense. Was I to blame for not being beautiful in Brad’s eyes? Had I done something wrong? Was I inherently worth less than other girls, based on that one boy’s remark?

No, but as a fourteen-year-old, when I was trying to figure out who I was and how I fit into the world, remarks like that sure didn’t help. (When my daughter, Mirabelle, tells me that kids in her class tell her she’s “stupid,” oh, I get SO MAD. Firmly, I tell her they are WRONG. I tell her how smart she is, how there are so many different ways of being smart, and how kindness trumps intelligence any day, regardless. Nonetheless, the insults classmates have thrown at my daughter cut her to the quick. They negatively impact how she sees herself, and it breaks my heart.)

So yes, I’d erase those hurtful memories. It seems to me that as a rule, we give back the love we’re given. If the world embraces us, we’re more likely to embrace the world in return. If we’re treated with love, we are then in the position of giving that love back — and helping others feel good about themselves in the process.

What about y’all? What would you forget, if you could — and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts. We’re in this together, this whole “being alive” thing, and I’ll take any wisdom I can get.

Lauren Myracle has written many books for tweens and teens, including the bestselling Winnie Years series and the Flower Power series, and her newest novel, The Forgetting Spell. She lives with her family in Colorado, and she thinks life is the most magical adventure of all.

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