All this thinking about memories made me take a look at something I do with mine: beat myself up.
I love to dwell on things that make me sad or afraid. This has been especially true of this thesis process. Never have I done a project of this magnitude, deep personal value, of this many rewrites, and all of my own creation. There are things I am weaving into this that I’ve never had to admit or confront before. There are things I write and do that I can’t imagine anyone else would care about seeing. There are times I failed that made me wiser but also afraid to try again. I hate talking about any of this because I want to wallow in peace. So the fact that some of these issues are informing this very public project that I’m supposed to be actively marketing to strangers is bonkers.
Making the tangential leaps that memories do can be like trying to drive a train hurtling towards a destination you can’t see. Things can pop into your head with very little prompting and derail you. You see a word, it leads to another word, then a smell, then a place, and a Sad Thing happened in that place, and now you’re sad about the Sad Thing.
But you can redirect this speeding memory train when you realize it’s gone off the rails. I have been trying to collect good memories to do this: screenshots of happy texts, a friend’s unexpected postcard, a silly toy bought on a trip. Making the choice to look at these and steer my brain towards them instead helps.
We’re all storytellers and consumers of story, partly because of all these memories we have. In stories, perspective is important. There is always context, a lesson, a point of view. As I get more secure in myself and my work, I am learning to accept/reappropriate things instead of just lamenting them. I’ve given my thesis protagonist, Rena, this opportunity as well. It’s okay to feel emotions and think about what made me feel them (i.e. wallow). It’s important to understand how and why things happen – if you can. But don’t dwell here; learn and keep moving.
Also, I have to remember there are just as many, if not more, good things and people that got me where I am as there are bad. They think I’m alright even if I’m upset that I suck at drawing shoes. These good people often rudely interrupt me when I am having a particularly self-indulgent wallow and tell me to get up and handle it. They are the ones with whom I made the good memories.
As I think about how powerful memories are, I remember times when I let myself succumb to the weight of them. But they are not carried around just to crush us or lead us astray; they affect our decisions, our tastes, our relationships, and our work. Let them lead you into weird places. You’re only there in your mind. Your badly-drawn shoes can walk you in another direction when you choose.