Against Forgetting

More and more I remember little. This was not always the case.

Sometimes I am invited to dinner by friends from a past life. The night inevitably turns on a dull reminiscent note. Pre med days and the oddly famous yet obscure lines, faces, characters and jargon that came along with that life. Far easier to acquiesce and keep the growing confirmation of having only a faint recollection of memories from a decade ago, a city or two ago, to myself. The famous scene plays out on the screen of my mind, the uncanny moments accumulate. How could I not remember?

Why is it that I remember some things so vividly and others not at all? Some things I remember in such crisp and perfect detail  that I can almost relive that moment in my mind, over and over again. Some things stand out in my memory that I am transported to an era far back when I hear certain sounds or smell a particular scent.

At the same time, I have difficulty remembering the name of that person I met just ten minutes ago. Even more so, I barely recall the names of my professors from pre med yet remember those from Creative Writing with such fondness, respect and awe.

It occurs to me, upon entering a building for the first time, that it is not my first time to enter it. That I was there sometime ago, to watch a play, if not to attend a meeting. That, since I had been there before, the building should not have been too hard to find. That I should not have been too bewildered by the directions, too confused by the one-way signs.

Instead I am profusely apologizing to those I have kept waiting. I say, I’m not at all familiar with this area, you see.

My sister hardly  never practiced Information Technology yet effortlessly recalls her hardware and software. If there is a need to know cable ports, software, apps, or the feast day of a particular saint, she is the one to call. I am a pre med dropout with no recollection of anatomy class beyond the sight of a charred cadaver for dissection in the first month of the semester. To distinguish between the tibia and the fibula, I have to tell myself the tibia is thick and the fibula is fine. Or is the tibia thin and the fibula fat? (Is it any wonder I failed Anatomy? Or maybe I remembered more back then, but my trauma-scarred brain has since chosen to block those memories.)

Looking back, I realize I have no recollection of certain periods of my life. Large chunks of the story of my life missing. Gone, with no conceivable way of getting back for I was never really aware when and where they started slipping away. It’s pre med days mostly and also a significant part of my early days in Creative Writing. It is as if a haze had descended on me that only started  lifting when I transferred to Creative Writing.

Is it only the happiest of memories that follow us through life? How about the most horrible memories – memories that supposedly haunt us no matter how hard we try to forget them? I’ve read about those, heard about such even. Why has my mind chosen not to recall?

They say that what makes a memory actually memorable isn’t the actions that make up the memory. We were there in ’05, not ’08. We went to the terminal in Pasay, not Cubao. You ordered tulips, not hydrangeas. You were in Sweden, not Fort Worth. I went out for coffee, not to shop. I walked out of  my removals exam, or maybe I never really went at all. The one with the dead nails taught Neuroanatomy, not Physiology. We missed it because I had a migraine, not fever. Or maybe I just never really wanted to go after all. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not the things that happened that matter to you, but rather how those things made you feel that sticks with you long after.

I pore over letters and photographs, bank statements and plane tickets I religiously keep, artifacts from a life I can’t quite remember. At times, this failure to recall frustrates me. If that memory were so horrible, how come I can’t even bring myself to remember? Or is there a fine line between  a memory so jarring that it haunts you and a memory so horrible your mind works triple time to forget?

What does this tell me as an educator seeking to create a positive learning atmosphere for my learners? Was it my fault as a learner? As a pre med student back then, perhaps it would have been simpler to accept and concede and continue that route but I just had to be so stubborn. Maybe I should have asked more questions. Maybe I should have just said yes to it all. Would that have made a difference? Was it that failing grade that caused my mind to turn the lights off when I wish to replay that scene? Or was the learning experience simply so trauma-inducing that my mind has chosen to black out, shut down and shield itself?

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