On Remembering


In some ways, I feel like a compulsive “remember-er”. I love taking detailed notes on presentations (even some movies) and I’m constantly journalling about my feelings. I write down quotes I love, and I’m the photographer of my friend group and family, snapping away at all times. I’ve been known to save bits of paper and magazine clippings in my scrapbooks, and I really love Pinterest.

Lately, though, I’ve been less interested in all this “remembering” business. It’s a lot of work! And guess what? It doesn’t always have the desired effect. For example: once, I basically missed an entire concert because I was too busy filming the whole thing on my crappy old camera. I’ve accumulated notebooks and folders full of paper that I will never look at again, collecting dust in my old room but which I can’t bear to throw out (yet). I sometimes forget to talk to people at a party because I’m too busy taking photos to preserve the night.

I sometimes forget to really experience the moment, because I’m too busy trying to save it for later.

The act of desperately trying to capture every detail is starting to feel pointless and frustrating to me. This is not to say that I will ever totally stop taking photos or writing down my favourite quotes – those are pleasant, and for the most part, unobtrusive activities that make me very happy. In reality, though, there aren’t many times when I sit down and look through old papers or old photos, or read through old journals. In reality, I have to remember: I will take what I need with me. 

I love this idea, and I fear it as well. It freaks me out to let go and to say “whatever sticks, sticks”, and not try to desperately preserve every detail of an experience. It’s scary to think about the possibility of forgetting something wonderful or important or inspiring. It’s intimidating to give up trying to control my memories and accept that what is special, what is important, what resonates strongly, will stay with me.


This weekend, I went away with my friends. I brought my camera and always had my phone, but I barely used them. I’m still trying to remind myself that even though I love taking photos, it’s also great to have times where I can just experience things like everyone else, not from behind the lens of a camera. We had an amazing time, full of bonding and laughing and good conversations. I know I won’t remember every detail (of course, this is never really possible, even though sometimes I believe it is as I scramble to capture everything), but I know that what was special will stick. I’ll remember driving on dark country backroads, singing (cliché but true) Livin’ on a Prayer at the top of our lungs. I’ll remember sitting in a big Asian grocery store, looking out at a parking lot, in the perfect late-afternoon light, eating something I’ve never eaten before. I’ll remember the long conversation we had in the coziest little café. I’ll remember all these things and I’m sure I’ll remember other things that have impressed themselves upon me even without me realizing it yet.

That’s the real magic of remembering. It really comes together in the most mysterious, wonderful way. I can’t tell you what will really stand out to me a year from now, if maybe there’s something that will leave a lasting impression on me that I didn’t even notice at the time. But there’s something so beautiful and freeing about reminding myself that I don’t need to force it, that I can enjoy myself and live and laugh and have faith that I’ll take what I need from every experience I have.

5 thoughts on “On Remembering”

  1. Great post, with lots of great ideas that I too sometimes ponder. That’s the tricky thing about experiences and the process of them becoming memories – it’s always a question (whether you choose to think about it or not) of how much to document or deciding to put the camera down and let your brain automatically catch the important bits. Like you, I tend to have faith that the special memories will stick around.

    This post also made me think of a film I recently caught at the Rotterdam film festival about a girl who loses a year’s worth of photos in a hard drive crash and tries to retrace her steps. It was quite good, and worth catching if it ever becomes available over here (which may happen through an iTunes channel the fest will be setting up sometime this year); in the meantime, here’s a link to the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WLK02yAbZg&list=FLni6HSfq4OE58yvouPs5Yvg&index=11

    1. The trailer is really good! Let me know if it becomes available over here. I always worry about losing photos, but it could easily happen and I love that the movie explores what that means on another level.. Makes you think about what’s important. Thanks for the share, Marc. :)

  2. Pingback: Homemade Gingerale » Life In Limbo

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