Saturday, August 22, 2009
(The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali, 1931)
I have a really good memory. It is not perfect, but it is frighteningly sharp. My friends and I joke that I have a "steel trap." This memory of mine is the reason I have earned the nickname "Rarely Wrong Erin." It comes in handy for Trivial Pursuit, Jeopardy, a number of such game shows, winning arguments and debates. I remember nearly everything. It annoys and fascinates those closest to me. There have been countless instances of friends asking me to remember some detail of a story they told me, a story I had not lived but only heard through their retelling. I've had friends who make a sport out of trying to trip me up on some fact or detail. They relish in those victories, that seem few and far between.
In school, my memory served me well. I could cram for a test at the last minute, read the material and be able to put it all back in the correct places on a test. School came easily to me. Tests were easy for me. This has always led me to believe that standardized testing has very little to do with the material you are learning. It seems it is more about one's ability to take a test.
The persistence of memory is a double-edged sword. I feel as if I have spent chunks of my life trying to blot out this memory, blur the edges of hard facts and the emotions of experience. I can remember every tiny painful moment, all the little deaths in my timeline. I can remember detailed specifics about any number of days as a child. I remember all the good moments too. These moments replay themselves inside of me. This, in turn, makes the longing for them all that more profound. I can get lost in memory. My memory has a way of obliterating present time and it's something I have had to become very conscious of.
I have also found great interest in that which I do not remember. What is it about that small fact or event that I have no recollection of? Is it something I worked on forgetting? Are there magical holes that some information happens to slip through? I often think of my brain, or more specifically my memory, as this enormous filing cabinet that is tended to by an army of office workers. Did one of these workers mistakenly not file something? Were they on a coffee break? Were they engaged in flirtation with a colleague? Or, did they, out of kindness, omit some painful bit of information from my database?
Having said all this, the absolute truth is, despite my recall abilities, I am often wrong. Therein lies the irony of "Rarely Wrong Erin." My decision making has often undermined the wisdom of my memory and reason. I may be "right" about the minutiae, but I often get the life stuff, oh so wrong. Then, when I make those errors in judgement, I never ever let myself forget.