I’ve been accused my entire life of living in the past. And I do, to an extent.
I have a freakishly good memory for events, and things people say. I absorb what is happening around me like nobody’s business.
I have always been really aware of the passage of time.
For instance, I remember my sixth birthday party. It was outside as usual, and it was a pretty hot day. My friends and I were playing barefoot on our asphalt driveway and it was burning my feet. I actually remember thinking, “This hurts so much, but this is the best birthday ever, and I’ll never turn six again. Remember this forever.”
I told myself that. At six.
And I have remembered.
I remember exactly what I was wearing and that it was really windy and that I kept having to brush wisps of hair out of my eyes. And I remember the feeling of being completely happy.
In grade eight, I convinced some friends that despite the fact that snow pants hadn’t been cool to wear since grade three, we just had to wear them the next day and have one last hurrah in the snow because we’d be heading off to high school, and then we’d be grown-ups and would never have a chance to just be kids again.
And we did. We put aside all veils of ‘it’s- too-cool-for-snow-pants-at-recess’, and played like fools in the snow.
I remember looking around at all of my friends laughing and playing. Remember this forever.
I have hundreds of these time-aware memories. Moments weaved into the spaces of my brain, filed under “It won’t be like this always, so enjoy it now.” Ready to recall in intricate detail, in case anyone ever asks, maybe? I don’t know.
It’s hard to say what exactly triggers the decision to remember. It doesn’t have to be a moment wrapped in extreme joy or sadness; it can be something simple like sitting in the back of a taxi and watching people walk by.
Remember this forever.
Or a lady with frazzled red hair starring expressionless out of the window at a coffee shop while her three friends laugh and joke beside her.
Look around you. Remember this forever.
Why would I have to remember that? It’s hard for me to articulate the feeling that accompanies the need to remember, but it strikes often.
So in a sense, it’s true: I live in the past. I can associate any number of my memories with whatever is happening right now.
If we are having a conversation, dozens of memories are lined up behind my forehead, eager to relate to what you are saying. It took me a long time to learn that I didn’t have to share a memory every time someone spoke to me, and an even longer time to learn to focus on what is being said instead of how I can relate.
Strangely, I do not have the same capacity for remembering dates or historical facts. I do love learning history, but it takes just as much effort as anyone else to memorize and recall important world events. I think I probably have to have some sort of feeling attached to it.
But then again, I have emotional reactions to books and movies, but I don’t remember the details of those so intricately. So no, it’s not even that. I think I have to be part of the experience. I have to be an active participant or an observer. Music can trigger that for me.
Sometimes, I feel bad for my husband, because he never stands a chance in an argument with me. I can remember exactly what was said, and who said it, how it was said and then repeat it verbatim.
I’m still learning to use my powers for good
I am immensely grateful for this capacity for remembering. It forces me to really be awake in the present; it makes me truly participate what is happening right now because I’m hyper-aware that tomorrow, it’ll be put in storage with the rest of my past.