First dances. First kisses. Goodbyes. Hellos. Life is full of tiny moments worth holding onto. We latch onto them with great tenacity, and we swear to ourselves that we will never allow them to be forgotten. Except that they are. Eventually, those memories to which we allot so much importance start becoming fuzzy around the edges. We forget the precision of our feelings in those moments, and we settle for a generalized understanding of what it might have been like. And despite our best attempts at reconstructing these memories, they begin to lose their shape in our consciousness. Looking at them then seems a bit like looking through someone else’s glasses: we know where we are, what we’re doing, and who else was there, but the lucidity is gone.
So why is it that, without trying, we can remember tiny details of obscure moments in our lives? A lost flip flop at a Fourth of July barbecue. A compliment from a teacher on a school playground. The song on the radio when your mom said you could skip that day of school.
Remembering is what happens when we aren’t trying. The memories we make when we’re not paying attention are the ones that brand themselves onto our hearts, and they become fully instrumental in our construction of ourselves. Sure, actively trying to remember will yield some results. But the truth is in the details. We are more likely to remember the waiter’s corny jokes at our weddings than we are to remember actually walking down the aisle.
Or maybe not. Maybe memory works differently for everyone. Maybe it’s the little memories that build the bigger memories. Maybe the event alone is true, and everything else is what we fabricate. Or maybe they’re all equally necessary. Maybe each memory, big or small, is crucial to building who we are, and remembering everything about everything would be overwhelming. Maybe.