Memories are like dear friends, and bitter enemies. Both burrow down under your skin. They find your emotional nooks and crannies, remind you of your strengths, and expose you to your weaknesses.
Memories can seem as immutable as stone, as unchanging as the mountains, and as permanent as the Earth.
But I have learned that memories are more like chameleons: they take on the colour of your current outlook, and their themes and tone reflect your own. They’re my own little constructs, my personal little fantasies, performances that I continually re-stage in my own private playhouse.
The stories that I’ve written for myself probably started in my head as soon as I could think. Like James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, the language and models that I built have evolved with me, over the years.
Memories age and mature with you, like your reflection. You just can’t trust them- they’re as slippery and subjective as you are. For me, memories are the ghosts I live with, the echoes of old events and past ideas, reflections of my life and past visceral emotions.
Some memories used to be exceptionally strong, but have waned with experience and considerable reflection:
- The chest-puffing pride when I was eighteen and would talk about my Dad, or hear his words come out of my mouth. I demolished his pedestal years ago, and put the pieces to better use in rebuilding a platform for myself.
- The bitterness and mistrust that I held against richer, happier kids, and their functional families. I secretly resented every other kid I saw, certain that they were so much better off than me. Eventually, after high school, I started to get over it.
- That feeling that I was unique in my life experiences, wiser and more resilient than my peers, and just plain special. This was mostly my own defense against self pity, isolation, and misery. It worked sometimes, but it was mostly a mask behind which I hid my fear and insecurity. I don’t worry about hiding that much anymore. After the age of 45, me and my insecurities began to feel much more secure in each other.
Each of these little treasures have waned with time, going from opaque, well-rehearsed scrolls to delicate, dried-out parchments that have degraded with age, and worn down to near transparency.
I can see right through those old narratives now. They still have occasional influence on me, but most of the time they’re not very convincing anymore.