Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What if you forgot the last decade of your life?

I've been slightly obsessed with memory- specifically amnesia- lately as though someone or something has high jacked my brain. (Actually, this really hasn't been just lately. I've been writing a story for years in which one of my main characters has amnesia, but it's just been pushed up a notch in the last few weeks.) I was trying to fall asleep one night a few weeks ago when I thought of what it would be like to wake up and not remember years of your life. More specifically, what would it be like if I woke up and I was married to a man I didn't know, my book was published, I owned a house, and I could write full time? This, of course, evolved into a story idea.

 photo WhatAliceForgot.jpg

Then, the next day I heard about this novel called What Alice Forgot about a woman who forgets the last ten years of her life, in which she has three kids and is in the middle of a divorce. I read it in two days. I couldn't put it down. I'm still thinking about it. The whole story just felt so real. It felt like I was living this person's life, feeling their turmoil and pain, and tons of confusion. Really great characters, really well done; a reviewer would call it "poignant."

And now I'm left thinking, "what would my younger self think of me now?" I was in college 10 years ago, just transferring from one in Long Beach to the Art Institute in Santa Monica. I had new roommates, new classes, a new apartment in a new city; everything was overwhelmingly, alienatingly new. And I was just about to turn 20.

A decade is a long time. So much can happen in that time that's it's almost like one can become a completely different person. Where were you ten years ago? What would your younger self think of your ten-year-older self? I think at first, I would be proud. "Oh, look at you! You have a job in interior design, you finished college! So what you don't have your own place yet, you have this awesome career!" I think I would be shocked I'm not married yet, though. And I think at that point I still thought I wanted a kid.

The more I think about it, the more I realize it's actually really tough to pin down how I used to think, which is the point. You're not really meant to. You're supposed to change, to evolve, to learn hard lessons and become a wiser, stronger person for it. That's what you take with you, not your old ways of thinking. But at the same time, one of the big messages of the book was not forgetting that innocence of our younger years. To learn balance and remember the good times as well as the bad. I suppose when you get down to it, the point of the story (and memory, for that matter) is that our experiences make us who we are, and that's what life is all about.

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