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.
Emily Dickinson once allowed her narrator to call herself (or himself) a nobody. I can’t help wondering how she (or he…you get the idea) came to that conclusion. Was she stuck in an identity rut? Had she been in one place so long that this seemed to be the only logical conclusion to make about herself? What might she have done if she had come outside her comfort zone, if she had started fresh?
She goes on to suggest that being a someone is “dreary” and that anyone who is someone is part of an “admiring bog.” Would she have felt this way if she had gotten the chance to try on a different personality for awhile, if she had gotten to feel what it was like to be a somebody? When we have the fleeting chance in life to start over, to be whomever we chose to be, do we scoff and pretend that who or what we were before is all we’ll ever be? Do we embrace our nobody-ness and continue living with whatever aspects of ourselves we find plaguing? Or do we grab that opportunity by the horns and hang on for the ride? Do we allow ourselves the opportunity to change, grow, experience?
Beginning a new chapter in one’s life is akin to beginning to write in a new journal. We stare at the vast expanse of space in which we can create whatever we want to create, and the hardest part seems to be what should come first. We become the storytellers, the master creators. If a character exists, it is because we made it so. If there’s something about that character that we wish to change, we can do so with the quick flick of an eraser.
Moving to a new place gives us a similar opportunity for creativity. When we move to new places, where we don’t know anyone, we get the chance to make a new first impression. We get the chance to take our past experiences, learn from them, and transform ourselves into better people because of them. Certain aspects of our personality will always be present, and they will inevitably surface without our bidding them to do so. Who we are, the core of what makes us us, is inherent; some things we can’t change. But we all have moments in which we wish we were something else: more adventurous, more easy-going, more ambitious. A change of setting always allows for new perspective for a character, and we are no different. Being in someplace new nudges us out of the norm, forcing us to either sink under the weight of all the things we don’t like about ourselves or to swim, free of the baggage of self-related negativity.
For that kind of chance, isn’t it worth seeing what the bog is all about?