I have learned that my memory is not as keen as I’ve been told it should be, especially at the prime of one’s life. The treacherous thing called recollection lies, filtering information just as my eyes collect it. Sometimes, I recall an impossible version of events (such as the time I aced a test without studying) only to realize how different my version is from how reality was (I studied all night for it, thank you very much). But the filters are not the worst parts.
The worst part is forgetting.
I don’t mean to forget, but it isn’t the sort of thing I can control.
How does one persuade his mind to remember that which has been lost—deleted from the data of the brain? I don’t think it’s quite possible. Even if I were to sit down and think very hard about all that had happened in the past year, I would surely miss out a thing or two.
Maybe three things.
Maybe ten things.
I don’t mean to forget.
It just happens.
I don’t mean to forget how the sun pierces my eye when I stare directly at it, or how too much chocolate makes my stomach feel heavy, or how anything with alcohol can drive my heart into my head, but I do. And I subsequently repeat my mistakes over and over again because I have forgotten the bitter taste of being wrong. For perhaps the taste of an unpleasant experience does not last long enough to keep me from folly. And I never seem remember these experiences—not when I need to. Not really.
I don’t mean to forget the important things, like how to make a friend feel valued, or how to sympathize, or how to know when my parents are dead serious, or birthdays, but sometimes—often times—I do forget.
And then like a wave so suddenly crashing into the shore, my memory turns around and decides to remember. Things I’d rather have forgotten—things that ought to remain forgotten—are dug up like corpses from their graves, haunting and loathsome and cringeworthy.
I remember in dreams where I cannot divert my mind’s eye from that specific moment in time, and I remember in my waking moments when my breathing quickens at the past incident—those words I’ve always wanted to take back, that punch I never should have thrown, that girl in class I should have treated better.
And in those moments, I wish my memory was better coordinated with my thoughts.
Unfortunately, no one can control their own subconscious. (Unless through hypnotism, but even that seems shady.)
We forget because sometimes we must.
We remember because sometimes we must.
Even when we don’t want to.
Perhaps I’m a better person because I haven’t forgotten my foolish mistakes. Perhaps I’m a happier person because I have forgotten happiness past—happiness that, when seen through the biased lens of the sorry present, would have me long for events and people beyond my reach.
Perhaps to forget is not the product of a treacherous mind but of one that is wise.