On Memory

If you’ve read my myriad entries on my personal history, you might rightly conclude that I’m a bit, nay a lot self obsessed. I’ve written several thousand words on my history and I’m trying to rewrite those into a larger epic. I’ve got so many more stories I have yet to get written down. Why? I’m fully aware many of these stories aren’t the most interesting. Why do I care?

I’m undeniably memory fixated. I’ve watched shows on people with hypermemories and the theory is they’re just plain fascinated by their own lives to the point they memorize the smallest details. I’m not nearly that good but I have a stronger mind trap for details that would elude many.

I always have been too. My first (1) 120 page script, written in 1998, was largely a retelling of 1996-1998 written explicitly to hold onto the memories. (2) It’s now gone humorously enough. This was written when I was 14. Many of my other writings stem from a desire to capture permanently my mind. Definitely this blog has its roots in that.

I wonder why I care. My mother found it odd, most likely correctly, that I’m still fascinated to a great degree with Houston even though I haven’t been back in 19 years. I really shouldn’t care. After all, I only really have maybe 3 years of vivid memories and 2-3 more of fuzzy ones. (3) Why does that part of me even matter?

Furthermore, isn’t dwelling on the past a bad thing? For a nostalgia drenched culture, we sure enforce that counterbelief. Dwelling on past events is treated with scorn and disdain. A person fascinated by the past “can’t let things go” or “lives in the past.” Those are culturally unacceptable.

Well, I’ve got to start by pointing out that many things I do are culturally unacceptable. That’s my lot in life. I’m kind of past caring too deeply when it comes to issues like this. It’s harmless to want to preserve the past.

I have to point out that I’m an intense fan of history. I’ve got five Arkansas history books beside me right now. My interest is 1940s-present and largely the culture, but I love the minutia of history. Why wouldn’t that extend to myself

It’s also, yes, a coping mechanism. Notice a very key moment when I said I wrote that script above. 1998 was a very heavy time for me as I was dealing with my diagnosis and the effects of a year of bullying. Of late I’ve been coping with a stressful move and winter weather. So if it kicks in during these moments, well it just does.

I admit that turning 30 last year was a bit hard for me. It closed up an era of my life and made me see that I truly never could go back. Many of my major choices are set in stone. (4) I’m content with many of them. But I can’t go back to college. High school is now half a lifetime away. My life has changed dramatically and I stress for the better, but it has changed. Nostalgia means a pain for the past and I’m aware I can’t go back now more than ever.

But there’s a deeper, more profound idea fueling this fascination. I know memory is unreliable. What I recall is a version of events, not the actual events. However, the person that did those things and lived that life remains the person typing these words. That’s a tremendous challenge to reconcile. Who am I if I am not the product of these past events? I want to know who I am and to do that I must record who I was.

That doesn’t mean I don’t look forward. I have goals. I have ambitions. I have to some small degree dreams. And in the days ahead I will form the past from the future.

(1) Explanation: 120 pages was the standard in the 1980s and 1990s for screenplays. It’s not anymore and if I’d formatted remotely correctly one of my other scripts would have counted.

(2) I’m officially a good 6 months or so late on getting my writing history up. It’s still something I want to write.

(3) I’m using fuzzy lightly. It’s staggering the amount of details I have recorded up in my skull.

(4) Let me kill the subtext you’re all thinking: THIS HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH MY MARRIAGE!!!! Read my entry on Amanda to get this understood: she is the greatest thing ever to happen to me. She is the one choice I’m dead certain on above all others. And I’m certain on all the major choices in my life.

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