A few weeks ago I started back at university for my third year to a mixture of excitement and slight dread. New classes, new faces, and not only that, but this could be my last year at university. Scary huh!?
Anywho, one subject I’m taking this semester is a ‘writing creative nonfiction’ class in which we spend the semester reading and writing various forms of creative non-fiction, basically, pretty much what it says on the box. So far we’ve done a number of small writing tasks, from a number of different prompts. The first couple of these that I have written got me thinking about memory, and the complexities and limitations which memories encompass.
It was the first task more than the second which left me in a state of what I can now only call confusion, with more questions arising from the piece than I set out to answer. The piece we had to write was titled ‘notes of a childhood’**, a writing task where we had to write a form of poetic list detailing some events from our childhood. The very broad task description brought up some interesting memories, some were more funny, while others are ones I’ve never forgotten. Not because I wanted to, but because I couldn’t get them out of my head. It was here that the memory question came up…as even though I have had this one memory of the first time I saw Dad cry embedded in my mind from the age of about 15, both Mum and my sister have a memory of that day which unfolds a little differently to mine.
So, I ask myself, which is true?
Though difficult, this isn’t impossible to answer, that is if it is a question I really want to answer at all. The way I see it, no memory is really completely true. As there is no way to record everything within your mind exactly as it happened. As a twenty-one year old remembering something which happened about six years ago, there is every possibility the strong emotions I was feeling that day have embellished and elaborated on that image in my mind.
So then, how true can that memory really be?
To speak truthfully here, there isn’t really any way of knowing. I did ask Mum, as well as my sister but they both have very different ideas of what happened that day. My sister not thinking that day occurred at all, while talking about it with Mum didn’t help much either, and Dad, I can’t bring myself to ask him about it. Not yet anyway. I’ve replayed that day so many times in my head now since it occurred that I am not sure if it really happened at all or even to that extent. On that same note though, I am not sure if I could create such a real depiction of the way I felt that day. Feeling that helpless, that unsure of what to do, I’m sure it has to be real – emotions like that have to be based somewhere, right?
Do the inconsistencies cancel out the validity of my own memory?
Here, some may say yes. “Yes, the only truth is in that which is consistent through each and every story of one event.” I, however, disagree. Though my family may have a very different version of how the events that day unfolded, what I remember is my own. What I remember is true for me, and that won’t ever change. In my eyes what happened has shaped the way I relate to others, and shaped how I place myself as the ‘carer’ or ‘peace maker’ every time something occurs where someone needs to step up to that role. Knowing the truth of how real that memory is won’t change that aspect of my personality, and honestly, I wouldn’t want it to.
…but either way here, whatever we believe, does it matter?
Honestly? For some it does, for some it may not. Memory is a very personal thing. So while some memories fade and some persist within our minds, what matters is what we make of them.
**I’d post what I wrote for the task which sparked all this thinking here but for the fear of some sort of ‘perceived plagiarising’/’self-plagiarising’ disaster or similar with the university, maybe after the semester is over I will…