Memory is a strange thing; triggered by smells, sounds, faces glimpsed in reflections in shop windows, recalling emotions and events from years ago back to the present. I’ve always been fascinated by the whimsical, often unreliable nature of both short-term and long-term memory, the tension of having information you once knew on the tip of your tongue – as if your brain has located the void where the correct memory should’ve been but has yet to locate the memory itself – and the euphoria of filling in that blank, followed by a rush of connected information.
How many memories have I formed in my lifetime? I can’t keep track of everything; not all of it is relevant to the person I am now. How many memories have I forgotten? It’s been on my mind recently, especially in light of an unpleasant streak of early-onset Alzheimers in my extended family: if my memory is fallible, I want to find a way of keeping my most important memories safe.
Which brings me to Thirty Memories. For the duration of the month of April, I’ll be writing down one memory per day, dredging up whatever comes to mind and trying to recall as many of the details of that memory as I can, the people, the places, the textures, how I felt about it, and doing my best to describe it all. Part memory-reclamation, part writing exercise.
By the end of the month, I’ll have a notebook full of memories. They may not be treasured – I’m assuming that at least some of them I would rather forget – but they will all be part of me, and perhaps by writing them down, by following the threads of meaning to which they’re tightly bound, I’ll be able to retrieve more of my past than I could otherwise.
I’ve already had some interest from other people in joining in, so I’ll be tweeting about my preparations and progress under the #30memories hashtag. Feel free to comment here or on twitter (@rob_haines) if you’re interested in joining our little adventure! Finally, while I know most of this probably doesn’t need to be said, I wanted to add a few guidelines to anyone who wants to join in:
- Write down one memory each day in April, in as much or as little detail as you feel is appropriate.
- Memory can be a very personal thing. I won’t be blogging most of my memories; between TMI, personal embarrassment and the chance of alienating friends/relatives who may remember an event in very different terms, it seems a risky idea at best. (I won’t say “Don’t!“, but simply suggest taking some time to consider other people’s feelings before posting!) Remember that anything posted to the internet is public and immutable, and you may never be able to take it back.
- As a corollary to the above, if you know anyone else taking part, please don’t ask to read their memories unless they’ve directly offered, without suggestion, coercion or expectation.
- At the end of the month, your memories are yours to do with as you like. Keep them in a notebook. Read them in the dark. Pass them on to your children, or grandchildren. Tear out the pages and burn them, watching the ashes rise, or bury the memories back in the depths if they’re still too raw to face.
- I’m lucky enough to have never experienced traumatic events in my life. If you have, please be careful, and remember that talking to a close friend or loved one can often help if you feel alone with your memories.
I’m looking forward to seeing how many of my lost memories I can reclaim in the course of a month!