The human memory is a fascinating and intricate system. It shapes our identities, influences our decisions, and preserves our experiences. I have a remarkable memory. I can recall events with astonishing clarity as if they were etched into my mind like a permanent record. For instance, I can vividly remember what my friends wore for a New Year’s Eve party a decade ago, the conversations we had, and even the music that played during our car ride to the event. I remember everything ever said to me—in sequence—and I can recollect people’s facial expressions, words, numbers, and every other irrelevant thing in life. I’m like a vault of the past. For my friends, I store their past in my vault free of charge. Every aspect of their lives is carefully preserved—every person they’ve dated, every triumph, every failure, and even the moments that brought tears to their eyes. 

From time to time, questions arise, leading my friends to wonder about the decisions they’ve made and the paths they chose. They might find themselves gazing at a former flame and saying, “Why did I break up with Chad? He looks so good.” 

I then answer. “Because he kept hiding in the bathroom to take calls, and you found a lipstick stain on his shirt. And he called you a bitch while arguing.”

“Mom’s so lonely. Why didn’t I tell her she could move in with me?”

“Because she went through your drawers and saw your vibrator and said you need it since you cannot keep a man.”

The funny thing is people don’t want to remember the past. While we recite proverbs like, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it,” we secretly desire to forget the past and move on. It’s part of our healing process. Remembering every detail, every mistake and every painful moment can impede our healing process. Memories can weigh us down, preventing personal growth and hindering our ability to embrace new opportunities.

Several years ago, a close friend was going through a rough patch in life. Her ex-husband was getting remarried to a younger version of her, and on his wedding day, she invited two friends to her house to drink with her. Though I was her maid of honor and supported her through her divorce, I was not invited. 

I felt like the eighth fairy who was not invited to Sleeping Beauty’s birthday party. Ready to place a curse, I called her the next day.

First, she was speechless. She had hoped I wouldn’t find out. (How?) Then she explained.

“I’m sorry. I know you would tell me how horrible he was and how unhappy I was while I was married to him, and it’s all true. But I just want to talk about a few good things he had done for me and think of him as the guy I fell in love with. And I cannot do that with you because you remember everything.”

Sometimes I feel like an alien living among humans, and you humans perplex me. I will never have the emotional maturity (or perverseness) to want to remember a terrible ex-husband in a favorable light on the day he remarries another woman. Yet it somehow makes sense. Perhaps selective memory is the greatest gift to humanity. By choosing only what we want to remember and rewriting the past in our minds, we can liberate ourselves from the past’s grip, embrace personal growth, and unlock the potential for a different and better future. 

Another friend recently told me he plans to get married for the third time in 8 years. I am tempted to tell him why the last two marriages did not work, but I keep my mouth shut. The beauty of life lies not in preventing every mistake or rectifying every wrong but in the resilience and audacity to keep moving forward despite setbacks. It is in the ability to fall, scrape our knees, and rise again, embracing life’s uncertainty and mystery.

Exceptional Memory Is So Overrated

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