Memories have a funny way of working. I can’t picture my second grade teacher’s face at all but my first grade teacher’s is crystal clear. There’s no real limit to our memories, at least I don’t think so, yet we still forget things. On the other hand, there are annoying songs that get stuck in our head all the time, wouldn’t it be a nice option to be able to delete those? What if our brains were more like harddrives and we got to choose what memories we wanted to keep and which ones we wanted to ditch? I wonder how many people would opt for the hard drive brain if it was an option...

Two powerful phenomenons connected to your memory that you might sacrifice if you did go for the hypothetical hard drive brain: nostalgia and deja vu.

For me, nostalgia is a sort of stray reminiscence on something from the past. When you come across a song you used to listen to all the time but have sort of forgotten about, or when you run into someone you knew well years ago but haven’t seen in a long time. It’s like a brief glimpse into the past; into the happy past.

Deja vu is similar to nostalgia in a sense but much more disconnected and disorienting. It’s that fleeting feeling that you’ve already lived a specific moment in time. You swear to yourself that you’ve been in this exact moment at some point in the past but can’t place it. It’s creepy in that it can make you feel like you’ve already lived this life before, but in some alternate universe. One of my best friends growing up was a really brilliant kid who could explain anything in the world. I once asked him where he thought deja vu came from. I don’t know if I buy into his answer but I’ll never forget it: deja vu occurs when one of your eyes registers what you’re seeing quicker than the other, both sending the same signal to your brain at just slightly different moments in time.

Some memories are complete, like entire movie scenes you can play out in your mind. Others are connected to distinct sounds or smells. My favorite are those static images that live in your mind like a disjointed scrap book. The cover to a book you got at the 3rd grade book fair but never ended up reading. The living room in your grandmother’s old house. The instrument you played in middle school and eventually grew out of and handed down to a family friend. Memories are the one thing we put in the bank that we can really count on going forward. The really important ones will always be there to guide us forward. They might even be there after we die, but nobody knows for sure…

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