Mar 5, 2017

Your Memory as a Tool

One night I was walking alone. I was feeling sad and anxious about my life. After a while, when I felt a little better I thought of finding out which memories in my lifetime so far actually stand out to me. 
I wondered, if I don't think hard or ask specific questions, which past events would I instantly remember? 

I was surprised at what I discovered. I thought I’d remember much more than I did. I thought I’d remember things I once believed unforgettable.

I remembered my first mountain climb, the dangerous trail, the view from above… I remembered waking up in a cottage under a black sky filled with super bright stars. I remembered going to a concert all alone, the giddy feeling when the band was about to play. I remembered rolling down the grassy slopes somewhere in Tagaytay when I was about eight.

Fast forward, I saw myself assisting in an amputation procedure at a hospital during college. Then I remembered sitting in an Alternative Medicine class. Oh how much I enjoyed the lessons. How cool that professor was! I remembered sampling my cousin’s Italian white wine whilst gobbling up tuna salad on a New Year’s Eve (which year, I don’t even recall).

I remembered entering a beautiful bookstore for the first time. I remembered the moment I bumped into a former colleague who very soon became my lifeline through a terrible break up and thereafter, a very close friend. I flashbacked on yet another new year’s eve, 1997, yes. My cousins and I were playing around a jackfruit tree, singing and having so much fun in a backdrop of adult fire cracking celebration.

I remembered other things and when I stopped, my list amused me. I told myself, yeah so if I die anytime soon these are actually the memories I’ll be carrying to grave. Not bad, really, not bad.

It was evident that my most vivid recollections were simple, or, I must say much simpler than I assumed.

The themes revolved around nature, books, learning new things, having fun times and good food. I bet in another 4 or more years, this list will change. But now I have reasons to doubt it will be far off from what I’ve already held dear.

This made me see what things made the most positive impression on me.

Nowadays, it’s difficult to not be constantly aware of what others’ memorable moments are. Add to this our tendency to associate best times to grander things-- special occasions, reaching some kind of goal or recognition, owning something (or someone haha), and we lose touch of what our special brand of happiness truly consist of.

I thought I’d remember acing an interview to this big time company, I didn’t. I thought it mattered to me that I was able to finally buy a pricey gadget, or that I didn’t have a blast in some party.

I thought it’ll be unforgettable to resign to my boss in a very dignified manner. Well, not really. I thought maybe I should be travelling more. Or I should be watching more series or building my wardrobe. That little exercise suggested otherwise to me.

If you explore personal development literature, you’ll find lots of practices and ideas where memories serve as a guide to good living. In moments of darkness and confusion, we can turn to our memories to lead us back home. Asking ourselves which memories we actually cherish can give us a well-informed suggestion on what to do next; what would provide us greater satisfaction.

For instance, I saw that sitting in a class and learning new things made me very happy years ago. So instead of doubting the benefits of going to seminars or workshops, I realize there’s a greater chance I’ll have fun. That sounds like an easy thing to figure out but I did this during one of my existential-quarterlife-depression-whatever-blackhole-it-is-crisis moments. Hahaha. And I can tell you when you’re deep in the muck, you do not even trust yourself to know yourself or vice versa.

So if you’re wading through dark clouds this might help!

Clear your head. Take a walk. 
Ask: what do I remember from my life?

What else?

Go home or sit somewhere. Write the memories down. (I had fun writing mine.)

Don’t think hard. Just write them down as they come. Be honest. If there’s no genuine feeling, forget it.
If you write only three, that’s perfectly fine.

I hope you re-discover yourself after. xoxo

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