All my life I’ve been known for my poor memory. I can remember the really important stuff, like dog breeds, programming code, character actors’ names. But when it comes to the trivia of life – your birthday, the vice president or the current month, I’m hopeless.
My cousin and I used to joke that if I had a good memory I could take over the world. This was usually after my bragging about something I had done well. I have often wished for a better memory and, all kidding aside, wondered what I could have accomplished if I could retain information better.
Lately I’ve come to realize that a bad memory can be as much a blessing as a curse. I may forget what year I went to Cancun, but I also forget most of the year I had cancer. I can’t remember the name of a single teacher I had in elementary school, but I also can’t remember the faces and names of the children who bullied me during those same years. I have trouble remembering the joy of getting my first puppy… no, actually that is one thing I will never forget.
I read a book about memory one time where the author proposed that the memories you choose to retain are the ones that form your world view and shape your life. We all have billions of moments to pick and choose from. The ones you remember say more about you than you realize. I usually try to remember the best times and forget the worst. It doesn’t work, but it’s what makes life bearable.
I still wish I could remember the plot of the book I just read or the name of the person I just met. I wish I could remember more time with friends and family. But I can’t regret forgetting so many of the failures, the hard times, the disappointments that I’ve experienced. The ones I can’t forget, I will just have to learn from.
That’s the challenge, isn’t it? Making your memories meaningful, and maybe, just maybe, choosing the memories that shape us into stronger, happier, better people.