I have driven the same route home from school ever since I started at my school in the fourth grade. It is seven miles long and requires approximately four turns. You would assume, then, that when my mother told me she would not give me directions home one afternoon, as I exercised my brand new learner’s permit, I would be able to drive home. You would be wrong.
I frantically circled the block, hysterically sobbing, as my mother insisted with increasing volume that I did know the route home and my sister sat quietly in the back, white-knuckling the seat belt, eyes brimming with terror. After about ten minutes of this, my mother finally caved and gave me directions home. “What have you been doing when I drive you home from school every day?” she asked in disbelief.
It could be argued that I simply do not pay attention. And this argument would be at least semi-correct. I zone out frequently – one time I missed an entire math class because I was so focused on the HD quality of a picture of a cupcake in my textbook. However, I think that the bulk of my problem lies not in my absorption of information, or lack thereof, but rather in my truly remarkable ability to forget.
I forget everything. I forget names, faces, instructions, grocery list items, obligations, directions home. I have taken many a quiz as a pop quiz, simply because I forgot the teacher ever announcing one’s upcoming existence. When I was a child and kindly adults asked me my birthday, I would freeze up into a sweaty panic because I could not remember it – my own birthday.
It is ironic, then, that I have developed such a fixation on remembering given my tendency to forget. Despite my forgetfulness, I want my life to be memorable. So, since becoming a fully functional human being, I have insisted on cleaning my room before my birthday, on wearing the correct socks for Christmas Day, on participating in every single landmark activity and tradition. I have insisted on making everything perfect for the events that I am sure to remember for the rest of my life.
Needless to say, this has put a lot of pressure on any marginally special occasion. And it’s especially disheartening because, in retrospect, I remember very little of these times as well.
Memory is a fickle thing. Shockingly, it turns out that I cannot predict which occasions I will forget and which ones I will remember. I do not remember Christmas of 2010. I do, however, remember vomiting into my mother’s hands after reading Angelina Ballerina during a road trip that made me carsick. I do not remember getting ready for my first prom. I do remember driving in the wrong direction on East Parkway. I do not remember my older sister’s graduation. But I do remember licking church pews as a kid to see how they tasted.
There is a certain freedom in forgetfulness. I have been obsessed with making my life memorable ever since I can remember (which, granted, isn’t very long). Accepting that I have absolutely no control over what my brain decides is more important in the long run takes a remarkable amount of stress off of my shoulders. My life is still going to be memorable. It just won’t be the picture-perfect, everything-going-according-to-plan kind of memorable. Instead, my memories are going to be of those nasty lemon bars I once made using substitutes for everything except lemons, of shattering my front bumper one November night wearing only a swimsuit, of getting a two-hour-long bloody nose, to which the nurse responded by saying, “I’ve never seen one anything like this before.” That is what I am going to remember, and that is all I’m going to remember, and that is enough.