I’ve become old enough now that I don’t remember absolutely everything about my life, and it’s really strange.
When one is quite young, until the age of around 20, their limited life experience means that they are likely to remember most of what they’ve experienced. There aren’t likely to be significant gaps in their memory – they will remember random, seemingly insignificant events and almost every detail of the events that are important to them.
As a child, I remember asking my dad the names of his friends from primary school. At the time, I could easily rattle off the full names of everyone in my class, but he struggled to give even the first names of more than a couple of people. To me, this was baffling, as my friends were so important to me.
However, I’ve only recently realised this is just simply due to the amount of time he’d lived, and subsequently the amount of information he had acquired. Though we hate to admit it, the brain does have its limits – it constantly sifts through our long-term memory and throws out or deeply buries what it doesn’t need. So even though we may have some memories of an event, its details fade as we get older. I find that slightly terrifying.
I recently came across this during a conversation with my parents. We were discussing what our plans were for Christmas this year, and I voiced that the family gathering they held on Boxing Day last year was fun – we should do it again. They looked at me quizzically before stating. “Of course we will. We do it every year.”
I was taken aback, as I couldn’t recall that ever happening prior to last year. I even have vivid memories of visiting my grandparents on past Boxing Days, and exchanging presents there – down to the snacks I was eating. But when I voiced this, both my parents and grandparents insisted that Boxing Day was always held at my parents’ house. I couldn’t remember a single one.
The realisation of this led me to think about other things I had forgotten. Of course, one doesn’t tend to remember the names of their full class in primary school for long after they leave. But I couldn’t remember the names of most people in each of my classes in high school, which I only finished around 3 years ago. I’ve forgotten events that my 16-year-old brother remembers well.
For the record, I don’t think I’m especially prone to forgetting this information. I’m not worried about my health in that sense. It’s just sobering to realise how little of my life my brain will actually remember as I move through it. Hopefully, being able to record my thoughts and works on any given day will help me as I get older, if I continue to put them down on ‘paper’.
I suppose, what’s left to me now is to make as many memorable events as I can. I need to ensure that there are plenty of times, people and experiences that I’ll never be able to forget; not in a million years.