We go through life having experiences and jotting them down, perhaps not always on paper. Sometimes, the mark is left on skin, or chipped teeth; maybe a torn shoe or a red lipstick mark. The memories serve us as our own history, but it is not an objective one. We build the narratives of ourselves as we go, defining what we think we are, coloring ourselves in the hue that goes best with our perceptions.
A teacher once told me that sometimes we create memories from nothing too. It’s just the way the brain works. Tell a brother or sister enough times “Do you remember that funny yellow shirt you had in first grade?” and eventually they will. They will fill in all of those little details- how they got it, why it was important, how it came to be missing. And suddenly, they will be attached to that memory, and include it into their narrative.
It makes me wonder how much of my own narrative really is true. How much I fleshed out; how much I snipped away because it was off-color and contradictory to my image of self. I know that there are certain memories that I wish I could change- some that I wish I could forget. Those are locked and encrypted by my brain. They are essential to my make-up as a human being, and will never be erased.
And then there are those memories that I will never tire of telling (though maybe some people will tire of hearing.) Those are the memories that I am specifically talking about here. The memories we choose as classics in our anthology of life. I think of running wild in the woods with wolves as imaginary friends, fracturing my wrist falling off a trapeze, sneaking a cat in and out of a hotel with my family as we lived on the road for a year. I think of my first semester as a ‘serious’ college student and acing my term papers. I think of my first and only great romance, prescribing it to myself as one-in-a-million. As a writer, I also consider the histories of my characters as my own. What are yours? Why do you choose these memories over others? How do you think they define you?