Rewriting My Memory

Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
- Pablo Neruda

I am trying to remember you,
let you go,
the same time.
— Nayyirah Waheed
You never were one for 'kid' movies. Animated or not, anything directly targeted to children between 4 and 12 would make your eyes roll so far back into your head, I would worry that they would spin right out. During our short but ever-so-sweet time together, we never once watched a children's movie. We never watched classics, like The Lion King or The Rescuers. We never bought ticket stubs for new ones, like Brave or Frozen. Looking back now, it seemed like it was a refusal at an attempt to get away from anything that isn't considered real. You wanted us to model the mature adult relationships, however toxic and flawed they were, that we saw in all of the TV shows and movies we watched together, like Gone Girl or American Beauty. If it didn't imitate real life in some shape or form, you weren't interested.

One of the first 'kid' movies I bought a ticket for after things ended was Inside Out. You might've heard of it—the film stars Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling and a few other great actors. I would ask you if you've seen it, but I already know you most likely haven't, so I'm going to give you a quick rundown of it: the film follows a young girl going through a period of change in her life, and the four major emotions in her head are trying to figure out why she's feeling the way she does. There is a moment in the film where the characters realize that memories that were once full of joy can actually switch and change as the girl, Riley, grows and lives. Her memories that were once a bright and shiny yellow become blue and gloomy, and that's why I've always been so afraid of writing about the memories that I shared with you.

The scariest thing I've discovered this summer is that when one person recalls a memory, it changes—shifting the narrative and tampering with the details. Your eyes are no longer a lens and your brain is not a video recorder. Our memories change as we do. By activating them and pulling them to the forefront of our brain, we are essentially asking it to change—as if the only way to keep our best memories safe is to never think of them at all. The characters/emotions in Inside Out, Joy, Anger, Disgust, and Fear, are terrified of the thought of changing a joyful memory to something that is tainted with Sadness, and that is how I feel about memories of us. I used to worry that bringing them back into my present day, whether by writing about them, speaking about them, or growing from them, would cast a shadow on the good days that we had. The good will become the bad or the sad. I was afraid of tampering with the good that we shared and turning it bad, like the memory of us driving by the lake on a Sunday in June singing at the top of my lungs. I didn't want that to be something that would make me buckle at the knees when it used to make my stomach flip in excitement.

But by recalling the memories we shared and by breathing life back into them, they are being rewritten in a way that allows me to learn from them. The memories that I have of us—the good and the bad—are adapting to my life as it is now. It has taken time and patience, but I've been able to take every memory and find a relevant lesson in it now. I like to think it's my subconscious having my back and finding any glimmer of light when I'm nostalgic and sad. Instead of being fearful that by reminiscing or writing about these memories would turn them into something dark and blue and gloomy, I can find comfort in knowing that those memories, however old they are now, are still living on in their own way. They are being rewritten and overwritten as I am rewriting and overwriting the old me.

Even though our narrative is no longer, the memory that I have of you and the memories that we shared are still changing with me. It's adapting to what is real and important now, even if neither of those things are you. Now all of the little memories that I have of ours, like the sound of your sleepy, groggy voice in the morning after our first night together, or the lankiness of your legs outstretched on your black couch after a long day at work, or the last night we spent together silently watching a film that we both knew would be our last, don't make me sad anymore. I know that those memories are being rewritten to be made fresh and new and relevant to me now. I'm not afraid of digging into my brain to uncover all the good and bad and ugly so I can try to learn from both of our mistakes. 

(...and who would've thought a silly kid movie would teach us so much about our own memories of one another? I guess I can say I told you so!)
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